Climate Action Plan Research Report 2021


This report examines both the development and implementation of climate action plans in higher educational settings. Research strategies include conducting a literature review utilizing reference management software; collecting institutional data on universities across the United States; narrowing the scope of our research down to the following four case study institutions based on their similarities to Montana State University: Colorado State University (CSU), University of Montana (UM), Utah State University (USU), and Weber State University (WSU); analyzing those universities’ climate action plans and supporting documents; interviewing individuals involved with climate action plan development and implementation from each university; and synthesizing our data based on thematic categories into key findings. These key findings, addressing what institutions in higher education must accomplish in order to see successful climate action taken on their campus, include but are not limited to (1) Establish and secure a reliable, substantial, and centralized funding source; (2) Secure support and endorsement from top university leadership, primarily the President; (3) Conduct a comprehensive GHG emissions inventory baseline, tracking progress through annual inventories; (4) Create a public carbon neutrality goal with interim benchmarks and detailed steps outlining how to reach them; (5) Engage campus and community stakeholders early and extensively in the planning process; (6) Establish institutional accountability mechanisms to ensure the implementation of projects, goals, and plan updates by explicitly identifying timelines, resources, and responsibilities; (7) Communicate the economics of CAP projects effectively; (8) Acknowledge current data gaps and uncertainties and plan to address them; and (9) Incorporate climate justice. While this study focuses on generating recommendations for the drafting and adoption of a new climate action plan on the Montana State University-Bozeman campus, our findings can also serve as a launchpad for future climate action planning endeavors, adaptations, and mitigation strategies at other higher education institutions striving to respond to the climate crisis.


Endorsed by the Campus Sustainability Advisory Council and the MSU Office of Sustainability



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