Climate Action Plan

Climate Action Plan

Progress towards carbon neutrality
Explore how our campus has changed, and where emissions have been reduced since 2008 using the Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

The Climate Action Plan is Cornell's overarching plan for carbon neutrality for campus operations, the advancement of a living laboratory for climate research and teaching, and global solutions for a low-carbon future by 2035. 

We can make a difference by demonstrating scalable low-carbon solutions on campus, advancing climate literacy and research initiatives, and accelerating impact through collaborative partnerships locally and globally.  Our Climate Action Plan is the roadmap to achieving campus carbon neutrality by 2035 and creating a more just and secure future for our community, New York state, and the world. The Sustainable Cornell Council stewards the Climate Action Plan.

Climate Action Partners

Cornell is a member of several national and global partnerships to advance climate leadership. Learn more on our Partnerships page. 

Current Climate Action Plan Strategies & Key Actions

Avoid, reduce, replace, offset carbon reduction hierarchy
The carbon reduction hierarchy helps identify which actions will be most impactful and efficient.

Cornell's CAP strategies and actions are informed by two decision-making frameworks, our quadruple-bottom-line sustainability framework (people, planet, prosperity and purpose) and a carbon reduction hierarchy (avoid, reduce, replace, then offset).

Explore the tabs below to find key actions identified for each carbon reduction strategy.

Culture Change Actions
Green Development Actions
Alternative Transportation Actions
Energy Conservation Actions
Renewable Energy Actions
  • Steam to low-temperature hot water heat distribution conversion
  • Heat campus with renewable energy: Develop Earth Source Heat
  • Power campus with 100% renewable electricity
  • Optimize campus energy systems for renewables: peak heat and emergency power strategies
Carbon Sinks & Sequestration Actions
Relative carbon reducing potential of each key action vs 2019 emissions

Question markHow can I get involved? The best way to support Cornell's progress to carbon neutrality is to read the reports, join a club or sustainability team, and look for ways to reduce emissions or improve sustainability where you live and work using the strategies outlined in our roadmap. 

The Ithaca campus Climate Action Plan is a "living document." Thus, the 2009 CAP is considered the basis document with new reports evolving and informing the strategy over time. This positions Cornell to leverage new technology and funding opportunities, and with flexibility to pivot as external regulatory, policy and market factors evolve. Some reports such as Options for a Carbon Neutral Campus have focused on creating plans or research implementation strategies for specific aspects of the CAP but have not substantially altered the initial strategy.

Report cover: CAP 2009 Original Report

Original Climate Action Plan 2009 (PDF)

Published:  September 2009

After President Skorton committed the institution to carbon neutrality in 2007, the first comprehensive action plan was released in 2009. This includes basis documents, reports and analysis of options.

Report cover for Climate Action Plan Update & Roadmap (2013)

Climate Action Plan Update 2013 (PDF)

CAP Actions Detailed Appendix (PDF)

Published: December 2013

Detailed list of each priority action in the 2013 CAP Roadmap, with responsibilities and data to support the path forward.

Illustrative carbon neutral campus energy system for Cornell's Ithaca campus

Sustainable design of Cornell University campus energy systems toward climate neutrality and 100% renewables

Published: June 2022

Examines the sustainable design of carbon-neutral energy systems, considering earth source heat, lake source cooling, on-site renewable electricity generation, and sustainable peak heating systems. 

Report cover: Options for a Carbon Neutral Campus by 2035

Options for a Carbon Neutral Campus (Page)

Published: October 2016

Technical and financial analysis of solutions to power & heat the Ithaca campus to meet the goal of carbon neutrality by 2035. 

Report cover: Carbon Neutrality Acceleration Plan

CAP Goal Acceleration Working Group Report (PDF)

Published: June 2014

Examined new climate science and recommended accelerating the carbon neutrality date from 2050 to 2035, then adopted by the administration.

Report cover for the 2011 Cornell CAP update

Climate Action Plan 2011 Update Full (PDF)

CAP 2011 Update Summary (PDF)

Published: January 2012

After reducing emissions 25% in the first two years of the carbon commitment, the CAP was evaluated for ongoing effectiveness.