AMS turns focus to reducing employee carbon emissions as part of net-zero emissions plan

The AMS is now seeking to reduce employee carbon emissions, following a positive report on the society’s own emissions.

Last year, the AMS unveiled its Sustainability Action Plan (ASAP), which was designed to align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Part of ASAP is a plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2025.

At an AMS Council meeting last month, Offsetters presented its findings from measuring the AMS’s carbon footprint based on data from 2019. According to AMS VP Admin Lauren Benson, the organization is on track to meet its goals.

“The data we received is on track for the goals that we have listed through the ASAP,” said Benson. “... I definitely think we are very much on track to hit that 2025 goal.”

Offsetters highlighted the three different scopes of emissions for the AMS. Scope one emissions are direct emissions such as stationary and mobile fuel combustions, scope two emissions are indirect emissions such as electricity consumption and scope three emissions are indirect and voluntary emissions such as waste production and employee commute.

Benson said the society has tackled the first two and are moving on to the third.

Employee commute took up 38.4 per cent of the AMS’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2019. When asked about the AMS’s plans to reduce emissions from these sources, Benson said the AMS is working closely with Offsetters to offset the remaining scope three emissions.

“We can’t control how people get to work but we can encourage people to bike, walk and carpool as much as possible,” she said.

At the Council meeting, Offsetters said it would work with the AMS to create a five-year GHG reduction and management plan and find ways to offset its emissions, something the company specializes in.

However, Dr. Milind Kandlikar, a professor at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and a professor and director of the Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability who specializes in technology innovation, human development and the global environment, is skeptical of the long-term impacts of offsetting carbon emissions.

“I guess offsetting might work ... in provinces like British Columbia, where there's a lot of land and you might be able to set up the institutions especially since there is provincial support already and history of doing it,” he said. “But it's hard for me to see it in a global sense as a serious contributor to emission reductions.”

On the other hand, Dr. Hadi Dowlatabadi, also a professor at the IRES and a co-founder of Offsetters, thinks that carbon offsetting is a great way for an organization like the AMS to reduce its carbon footprint instead of focusing on on-site solutions. He also suggested that the AMS look into other options in order to reduce its emissions from employee commutes.

“We created the U-Pass, and we made it much more expensive to park on campus,” he said of past UBC initiatives. “...If, for example, UBC was to offer shared rides, preferential parking passes, they would take off.”

Kandlikar urged the AMS to consider focusing on pushing for political change.

“Governments keep making announcements, but who is holding them accountable?” he said. “I think [for] young people… when their future is at stake, that's where the action should be. Make governments accountable.”

Update at 10:06 a.m. on Friday, November 5, 2021: This article has been updated to correct Dr. Milind Kandlikar’s title.