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On the way to better climate neutrality

Kiel University took a huge step towards climate neutrality in 2018. And if everything goes according to plan, another similar huge step will follow no later than 2020.

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We cannot continue like this, the University Board decided in 2010, after the university's electricity costs had more than doubled within ten years. This alarming trend should be reversed by professional environmental management, which was already introduced in 2012 in accordance with the EMAS standard. EMAS stands for Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, and is considered the world's most demanding environmental standard, in accordance with the EU EMAS Regulation. Those who introduce it declare that they are willing to do more to protect the environment on a voluntary basis than what is required by law. In addition, they must strive for constant improvement and submit to annual audits. The level of effort required is shown by the fact that still only about 20 of the 400 German universities have been certified. And among those, Kiel University is in better shape than most of the others, emphasised Dr Norbert Kopytziok, the university's environmental manager.

For example, power consumption decreased by more than ten percent between 2013 and 2018. Per capita, the decline was even greater at around 14 percent, because the number of student and non-student university members has grown considerably in this time. Since 1995, Kiel University has also reduced energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by around 60 percent, and thus already significantly exceeded the target for state properties of 40 percent by 2020. For Kopytziok, this is related to the fact that the demand for thermal energy has remained constantly low for years. The climate expert also praised the technical staff, who have made significant efforts to ensure that the heating systems are as efficient as possible. Last but not least, the students and employees at Kiel University demonstrate a high degree of environmental awareness. "If many people pay attention to not heating more than necessary, and ensuring devices only operate when required, then there are enormous benefits," emphasised Kopytziok.

The energy-related CO2 emissions have declined dramatically from 2017 to 2018. They decreased from around 14,000 tonnes to only around 8,000 tonnes, because the entire campus converted to green electricity - with the exception of the Faculty of Engineering in the district of Gaarden. When the new gas-powered Kiel coastal power plant on the Ostufer replaces the old coal-fired power plant this year, a similarly positive climate effect is also to be expected for heating. The CO2 emissions should fall to around 3,000 tonnes by 2020 at the latest, estimates Kopytziok.

It is more difficult to achieve such successes in the area of mobility. Kiel University is one of the largest sources of vehicle traffic in the city. Although in summer around 50 percent of students and 40 percent of the workforce use their bicycles, with increasing distance between home and university this ratio decreases significantly. Therefore, together with the city of Kiel, the university is striving for more attractive bus services, said the officer for occupational mobility management, Sebastian Starzynski. From his point of view, the planned urban light rail system could provide significant relief.

Similarly, the possibilities of bicycle transport are not yet fully utilised. The university is also able to promote cycling because it won a million Euros in a 2016 nationwide mobility competition. This prize has already financed several hundred new bicycle stands. Further parts of the Veloroute 10 fast cycling route on the campus grounds are also freshly completed, as well as shelters for bicycles. Electric mobility also plays an important role in the climate concept. An electric cargo bike and normal E-bikes are already available for staff trips. The fleet of electric cars and number of charging stations will also be expanded further.

Recently, environmental management has also focussed on waste prevention. The once utopian goal of conducting climate-neutral teaching and research by 2030 is no longer so far away for Kiel University, according to Norbert Kopytziok. 

Author: Martin Geist