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Calls mount for Purdue to make climate commitments

As regional climate plans move forward, some are calling on Purdue to take steps to address emissions (FILE PHOTO Ben Thorp/WBAA).

The Greater Lafayette region has a unique climate plan, which includes stakeholders from Tippecanoe County, West Lafayette, and Lafayette.

Local groups say that they still want buy-in from Purdue University.

The Purdue Climate Action Collective has announced a town hall for next week, urging the university to commit to a zero carbon emissions target that aligns with its Big Ten peers. The group also wants Purdue to initiate a climate action plan.

The call comes as the Purdue faculty senate is expected to take up a resolution next month that calls for the school to commit to carbon neutrality by 2030 and join the Greater Lafayette Climate Action Plan.

Michael Johnston is an associate professor in the Purdue English Department and a member of the Climate Action Collective. He said other universities and the surrounding community have already adopted climate plans.

“That all adds up to, at least in my mind, to say it’s time for Purdue to take a leadership role in this,” he said.

But Johnston said their campaign is about building support for those changes – not trying to pressure the university.

“We want to work with the administration,” he said. “It’s a ‘make our voice heard and encourage the administration’ campaign.”

The calls for Purdue’s support are mounting as leaders in Tippecanoe County, West Lafayette, and Lafayette move forward with a regional climate action plan.

Earlier this year, local officials passed the Greater Lafayette Climate plan, which includes a target of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Across the country, over 600 local governments have some kind of climate action plan, but a recent survey found that many cities are failing to live up to their climate targets due in part to plans that lacked details about how to achieve them.

Maithilee Das Lappin is an associate with Greenley and Hansen, which has been working with the Greater Lafayette region to put together its climate plan. She said in Greater Lafayette, greenhouse gas emissions come largely from built environments: commercial, industrial, and residential energy use.

“If you think about it from a number perspective, 80eighty is a huge number – 80 percent reduction is a huge, huge goal, very ambitious goal,” she said. “But I think when you look at our pie chart for our greenhouse gas emissions and where those are coming from, one of those goals can achieve a large percent of that number.”

But Das Lappin said investment from regional players like Duke Energy and Purdue University will be important to achieving those goals.

“Buy-in from those companies is absolutely essential to any kind of goal that we have in this plan,” she said.

Duke Energy has a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Purdue University does not have a public commitment to achieving net zero. 

In a written statement, a Purdue spokesperson said that the university is “always open to new conversations and ideas around climate initiatives”, pointing to the ongoing partnership with Duke Energy to explore nuclear energy options.