04 Junio 2024

Universidad Andrés Bello Will Be a Carbon Neutral Institution by 2038

The strategy has already been presented, and the work plan - which began in 2022 - contains initiatives across all areas. In this way, UNAB aims to reach zero emissions 12 years earlier than the goal proposed by Chile.

For Universidad Andres Bello to be carbon neutral means achieving a balance between carbon emissions produced and offsets or actions to reduce those emissions. In other words, the aim is to minimize its carbon footprint as much as possible and offset any remaining emissions by supporting reforestation projects and investing in projects that emit carbon credits. This makes it possible to significantly contribute to the fight against climate change and promote sustainable practices among all stakeholders in the university community and beyond.

That is the goal and objective set by the university for 2038, when UNAB will celebrate five decades of existence. Moreover, the university expects to reach zero emissions 12 years earlier than the country’s target.

To achieve this, a strategy has been developed that includes successive and complementary stages in which all university areas participate and are committed to management, training, research, and community outreach.

«Carbon neutrality is not just a statement; it’s actions. UNAB was responsible for proposing it and generating a clear and specific roadmap, with successive and quantifiable initiatives, to guide our institutional actions over the next 14 years and be transversal to our entire operation. It is a cultural change in all areas of the university and all community members, permeating the university and society. We are the largest university in Chile, and therefore, we know the responsibility that this implies. We assume it with commitment and enthusiasm,» said Universidad Andres Bello’s President, Julio Castro.

The strategy outlined strongly focuses on management and operation, which implies changes in processes and specific investments that provide immediate and long-term results depending on the area being addressed.

The range of areas involved is extensive and requires very detailed planning.

This planning includes actions to reduce energy consumption and transition to renewable sources. The aim is to reduce waste and promote its recovery, reuse, and recycling. The efficient use of water requires reducing consumption and implementing systems that indirectly contribute to reducing carbon emissions associated with its treatment and distribution.

Similarly, it includes the conservation of biodiversity through the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems, contributing to capturing and storing atmospheric carbon. Another area is sustainable transportation, promoted by using more efficient and less polluting means of transportation.

At the same time, initiatives such as sustainable purchases are contemplated. These consist of prioritizing goods and services and acquiring sustainability from suppliers that follow this line.

Gonzalo Guzmán, UNAB Vice Provost, explains that «the goal set for 2038 is an ambitious deadline that allows us to plan, develop and implement projects in various areas, from energy management to biodiversity conservation».

“In the process, UNAB reduces its carbon footprint, positively impacts the community, and inspires others to follow suit, thus fostering a societal shift toward a more sustainable future. We are incredibly proud to aspire to achieve carbon neutrality in the same year we celebrate our 50th anniversary.”

The application of this strategy is complementary to the measures taken by the university to encourage innovation and research in this area, as well as the promotion of joint work with industry to develop environmentally sustainable solutions that contribute to its development.

Along these lines, UNAB has strengthened the role and work of its research centers and institutes, especially by encouraging them to generate solutions for sustainability issues. Today, Universidad Andrés Bello has initiatives that transversally address all the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Units such as the Research Center for Sustainability, the Center for Systems Biotechnology (CBS), the Center for Urban Research for Development (CIUDHAD), the Center for Plant Biotechnology, the Quintay Marine Research Center, the Center for Transportation and Logistics, and the Center for Energy Transformation stand out nationally for their interdisciplinary contributions in this area.

Long-Standing Commitment

UNAB’s commitment to sustainability and care for the environment, as well as its strategy to promote knowledge generation in this area, goes back many years.

An example is that the university is the Chilean headquarters of the United Nations Global Compact. This initiative has been active within the University for years and seeks to encourage companies and organizations to align their operations and strategies with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2022, the University decided to institutionalize this sustainable commitment. It launched its sustainability strategy, which contemplated several areas, plans, and goals, all in line with the new UNAB Institutional Strategic Plan (2023-2028), which incorporates this area as one of its cross-cutting development pillars.

In addition to the above, UNAB is one of the founding members of the Sustainable Campus Network, and is among the top 5 Chilean institutions with the highest overall score in sustainability in the Report and Evaluation of Sustainability in Higher Education Institutions (RESIES) 2023.

Universidad Andrés Bello currently has the best sustainability indicators in the country, which has been consistently ratified in recent years by the Times Higher Education Impact ranking, which consecutively ranks us number one in Chile in terms of contribution to the fulfillment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Stages of the UNAB Route to Zero Neutrality

The roadmap drawn up by UNAB for carbon neutrality began with a thorough diagnosis in 2021, followed by four stages that began in 2022 and will culminate in 2038.

In each of these stages, specific projects are implemented to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and offset residual emissions using carbon credits. Carbon credits are an international instrument that allows companies, institutions, and countries to offset more difficult-to-eliminate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by investing in projects that mitigate greenhouse gases, such as CO2 capture or reforestation.

«Aware of the urgency of climate change and the need for concrete actions, Universidad Andrés Bello is embarking on a transformative project that will require the development of a wide variety of programs and projects in different parts of Chile. From the implementation of more and better clean technologies to the promotion of sustainable practices throughout the university community, each step, project, or initiative will bring us closer to the goal of making all our UNAB campuses carbon neutral,» said Héctor Hidalgo, UNAB’s General Director of Environmental Outreach and Sustainability.

«This commitment not only contributes to the reduction of GHG emissions but also promotes innovation and environmental education and strengthens the institution’s social responsibility towards the planet and future generations,» says Lesly Orellana, Director of UNAB’s Sustainability Department.

Several universities worldwide have declared their commitment to carbon neutrality, including Oxford (by 2035), Arizona State University (2035), and Cambridge (2048). At the national level, institutions such as Universidad Católica (2038), Universidad de Talca (2030), and Universidad Austral (2035) have presented, as has UNAB, their plans to achieve this goal.

UNAB Endowment

In addition to the above initiatives, Universidad Andrés Bello has placed all its capabilities at the disposal of this objective. Along these lines, its Endowment (an endowment fund created in 2022 that finances scholarships for students) created a line of funding for applied research that, in 2023, financed its first competition.

This competition aimed to strengthen the university’s research capabilities in Sustainable Oceans, generating interdisciplinary projects with this topic as their sole objective.

«The purpose of this UNAB Endowment competition is to guide the university’s research capabilities to solve knowledge or development gaps needed to address challenges relevant to our country. In this context, understanding, protecting, and managing our relationship with the ocean is key; it is our source of oxygen and food, provides economic sustenance for part of the population, is the route by which our global market is conducted, and mitigates climate change. At the same time, it is also a source of threats from natural disasters. Our university has a tradition of more than three decades of research associated with the oceans. From that base, we want to promote new ideas oriented to interdisciplinary research challenges that are part of UNAB’s contribution to the country,» said Dr. Carolina Torrealba, Dean of Research and Doctoral Studies at UNAB.

In line with SDG 6, the institution awarded ten projects, which will be implemented by 2024.