Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The University of Alberta recognizes the need for greenhouse gas emission reduction to mitigate climate change and believes that, as a university, UAlberta is uniquely positioned to lead the way. In addition to the capacity to act as a living laboratory and develop and implement new technologies, UAlberta has the unique opportunity to educate the leaders of tomorrow to create solutions to climate change.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

The Energy Management and Operations unit coordinates the university's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory. This inventory tracks most sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as utility consumption, fleet vehicle use, refrigerants, fertilizers, and solid waste. As data becomes available, more emissions sources will be incorporated. The inventory allows Facilities and Operations to better plan for reductions, manage sustainability data, and support sustainability reporting.

The university has released a greenhouse gas emissions inventory report for 2005-06, 2012-13, and annually thereafter. A full report will be published in 2020. 

The university has had considerable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over the years due to past energy management projects and the district energy system. Together, these initiatives help the university avoid about 77,000 tonnes, or 23 per cent of today’s emissions, each year. As emissions reduction goals and strategies are outlined ahead it is essential to recognize and celebrate these past successes, and consider the future goals and strategies with these achievements in mind.

Accounting for rising emissions

Total GHG emissions from the University of Alberta increased by 28 per cent between 2005 and 2015. In that same time, the university saw a 23 per cent increase in building area growth and a 12 per cent increase in population. Most of the buildings added to the university during that time were science and lab buildings (e.g., Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, Edmonton Clinic Health Academy) which use much more energy than office and classroom buildings. While the University of Alberta remains above our 2005 baseline emission levels, we have reduced our emissions by 8.5% since 2012.

Emissions Source  2005
Baseline Year
2012 % change from Baseline Year  2015  % change from Baseline Year
Scope 1 117,474 169,737 44% 149,049   27% 
Scope 2 94,901 129,390 36% 126,586  33%
Scope 3 20,982 26,225 25% 24,182  15%
Total tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions 233,358 325,351 ↑ 39%  299,817  28%

Emissions Reduction Plan

The urgency and scale of the challenge of global climate change is a call to action for all. Leaders like the University of Alberta have a special role to play in modeling the way to a sustainable future. At the time the reduction plan was released, the Canadian federal government has had committed to reducing GHG emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 under the Copenhagen Accord. As a globally recognized leader in post-secondary education and research, and a leader in sustainability, the University of Alberta plans to will match this target, and will align future reductions plans with changing government commitments.

By following the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan to the year 2020, UAlberta will reduce emissions down to 194,000 tonnes in 2020. This will primarily be accomplished by the following measures:

  • Adding a new 25 MW natural gas-fired turbine, combined with other energy efficiency, awareness and renewable energy initiatives will result in a 16 per cent drop by 2020.

  • Diverting 75 per cent of organic waste, as part of a comprehensive waste management plan, will reduce another 1,800 tonnes of GHG emissions by 2017.

As we approach our 2020 goal, the university will reassess its path and renew its commitment to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The university is committed to pursuing carbon neutrality in the long term and will take a measured and practical approach to realize this future.


What's a greenhouse gas?

Our atmosphere is a bit like the glass in a greenhouse. It allows sunlight to enter and warm the earth, but it also prevents that heat from escaping out into space. This actually makes life possible, and we have greenhouse gases to thank for this effect.

Unfortunately, in the last two centuries industrialization has released more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than humans have ever seen before. This is causing the earth to heat up, resulting in extreme weather, melting glaciers and rising sea levels. Action on climate change aims to reduce the output of greenhouse gases and stabilize the earth's climate.

UAlberta's emissions inventory measures three greenhouse gases identified by the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol: Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). It also measures emissions from a commonly used refrigerant, HCFC-22.

Contact Us

Michael Versteege, Manager
Energy Management & Sustainable Operations