ACUPCC (Part I): Colleges and Universities Fight Global Climate Disruption

The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) is a high-visibility effort undertaken by a network of colleges and universities to address global climate disruption and accelerate progress towards climate neutrality and sustainability. Each institution has committed to eliminate net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from specified campus operations and to promote research and education geared towards stabilizing the earth’s climate.

ACUPCC was first created in October 2006 at Arizona State University with 12 college and university presidents as founding members. Today, over 675 universities and colleges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are signatories under the ACUPCC, representing a student population of over 5.6 million.

The ACUPCC provides a framework and support for America’s colleges and universities to implement comprehensive plans in pursuit of climate neutrality. The commitment recognizes the unique responsibility that institutions of higher education have as role models within their communities and in providing education to accelerate climate neutrality and reverse global warming. In addition, implementing efficiency measures in educational facilities typically reduces long-term energy expenses, optimizes energy use and provides predictability for energy costs and budgeting.

As signatories of the ACUPCC, institutions have agreed to:
  • Complete an emissions inventory
  • Within two years, set a target date and interim milestones for becoming climate neutral.
  • Take immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by choosing from a list of short-term actions (typically derived from an energy audit).
  • Integrate sustainability into the curriculum and make it part of the educational experience.
  • Make the action plan, inventory and progress reports publicly available. 


As a critical component of the ACUPCC, signatories are required to develop a comprehensive inventory of all GHG emissionswithin one year after signing the commitment and an updated GHG emission report every other year thereafter. Collecting your unique GHG emissions data can be daunting; however, understanding your emissions trajectory over time will provide a starting point for identifying potential energy conservation measures (ECMs) and developing a comprehensive climate action plan to achieve climate neutrality. Consistent with the GHG Protocol standards, ACUPCC signatories are required to report on three scopes of emissions sources, including Scopes 1 and 2, and two areas of Scope 3.

Scope 1: Direct Emissions
Scope 1 emissions are those that are physically produced on campus (e.g. on-campus power production, campus vehicle fleets, refrigerant leaks). These sources are “owned or directly controlled” by your institution.

Scope 2: Indirect Emissions
Scope 2 emissions are mostly associated with purchased utilities required for campus operation. They are indirect emissions resulting from activities that take place within the organizational boundaries of the institution, but that occur at sources owned or controlled by another entity.

Scope 3: Other Indirect Emissions
Scope 3 includes emissions from sources that are not owned or controlled by the campus, but that are central to campus operations or activities (e.g. non-fleet transportation, employee/student commuting, air travel paid for by your institution).


There are three stages to the GHG emissions inventory process: data collection; GHG emissions calculation; and data analysis for climate action planning. The raw data required for a campus GHG inventory calculation falls generally under the following major categories:
  • Purchased electricity, steam and chilled water
  • On campus stationary sources (energy generation)
  • Transportation (commuting, air travel, campus fleet)
  • Agriculture (fertilizer use, animal waste)
  • Solid waste (incinerated, landfill)
  • Refrigerants and other chemicals
  • Offsets (Renewable Energy Credits purchased, composting, forest preservation, local offset project such as paying for boiler conversion at a local K-12 school, etc.)
This data may be acquired from a variety of sources, including: campus meteringenergy management and data management systems, the physical plant department, the campus planning office, local utilities, etc. Following data collection, GHG emissions can be calculated from the raw data. Although there are free calculator tools available, institutions are often better served by hiring an independent energy consultant to facilitate and conduct the data collectionenergy auditsemission calculationsreporting and resulting data analysis. Following the development of a comprehensive emissions inventory, a Climate Action Plan (CAP) should be developed to include strategies on reducing GHG emissions and achieving climate neutrality.

Stay tuned for Part II of this series to learn more about the ACUPCC and how to develop and implement a climate action plan to meet your emission reduction targets and sustainability goals!