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NMU ahead of curve on key issue of carbon neutrality

Northern Michigan University has taken a transformational step toward a more sustainable future by proposing in a draft strategic plan to move the university toward carbon neutrality.

We were thrilled to hear this, as we used this space just over a month ago to encourage NMU President Fritz Erickson and the NMU Board of Trustees to seriously consider a carbon neutrality plan for the university.

The idea, proposed by Ryan Stock, a professor in NMU’s School of Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, was outlined in a letter to Erickson and the NMU Board of Trustees urging the administration to make NMU net-carbon neutral by either 2030 or 2050.

Stock circulated the letter and obtained 1,069 signatures from NMU department heads, professor, directors, students, alumni and others. Additionally, 25 institutions endorsed the letter, which garnered six letters of support.

That letter was presented to Erickson and the board on Feb. 6, Stock said. On April 5, Erickson circulated a draft strategic plan titled “Investing in Innovation,” which in part dealt with carbon neutrality.

During a recent campus forum, Erickson addressed the proposed updates to the university’s strategic plan, which outlines several priority initiatives, including moving NMU toward carbon neutrality.

“I’ve received a request from students, and supported by faculty members and groups on campus, that the university make a statement that we will be carbon neutral by at least 2050,” Erickson said. “Personally I’m very supportive of that, but I don’t want to make that statement unless we have a plan with a framework for achieving it.

“I’ve seen too many people make a big pledge for years down the line, knowing they won’t be around to see it through. We need to put in the hard work of creating a framework with true action plans that will get us there.”

The basic outlines in that plan, according to Stock, include to get lower levels of carbon emission factors on campus, converting the vehicle fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles, increasing the use of solar energy on campus and collaborative sustainability that involves micro-credential and certification programs.

“We were through the moon,” Stock said.

As we’ve stated before, the plan has our full support here at the Journal, as we recognize the urgency of fighting climate change and the tremendous value of NMU’s influence on the community, state, region and nation.

Furthermore, we are in full agreement Erickson’s comments regarding the necessity of a solid framework for the plan, as working out specifics of how this plan will be implemented — as well as the direct fiscal and climate impacts — is essential foundational work that will be key to the success of the plan. Furthermore, these details will show the public — and other large institutions — that such an undertaking is feasible, possible and will offer a significant return on investment.

We commend all involved for their hard work and urge the university administration to prioritize the planning and feasibility groundwork while engaging with stakeholders and the community, as NMU is a regional leader that has the power to make a profound difference on a global scale.

As we’ve noted before, if this plan is successfully adopted and implemented, it could be remembered for generations to come as a critical action that helped sustain life, livelihood, health, and the environment in our area and beyond.

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