Harvard plans to sharply reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the
next eight years, Drew Faust, the university president, said.
The initial, short-term goal for the university will be to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from a 2006 baseline by
2016, Faust said yesterday in a statement.
In the winter of 1990, my Harvard-owned apartment had its heating fail. I called the administration for weeks before anyone would show up to look at it. By this time, I actually had ice on the inside of my window panes. Walking into my freezing apartment, a maintenance guy placed a thermometer in the center of my room, and then just stood there staring at it for 5 minutes. At this point he had not asked me about my problem, nor looked at anything remotely connected with the heating system.
He suddenly sprung into action, looked at the thermometer, and started to walk out of the room. "Wait," I said. "What is wrong? Do you know how to fix it?" The Harvard maintenance guy says "Your room is only 53 degrees -- by state law we don't have to do anything unless it is below 50.*" And then he walked out, with me screaming at his back. Only when I sent a letter to the University, copied to the fire marshal, explaining that all was well because I found the room stayed pretty warm if I kept the oven on "broil" 24 hours a day and left the oven door open all the time, did I get any action to fix my heating.
It is scary to think that a university so reluctant to spend any money on heating rooms even 20 years go now wants to reduce its energy use by 30%.
Of course, we all know how these things work: creative accounting. The Enron guys were saints compared to the accounting games played in the carbon accounting and offset world. Harvard will probably say that "Well, we were planning to build a massive coal-powered electricity plant right in the middle of Harvard Yard, and by cancelling the project, we have reduced our emissions 30% over what they would have been and therefore made our goal. Don't laugh - the UN and EU are doing EXACTLY this every day.
* Note that I cannot remember the exact legal standard quoted to me, but I think it was 50.