Greenhouse Gas Inventory

Annual inventory of the greenhouse gas footprint from buildings, operations, and travel.  The inventory tracks progress towards our goal of carbon neutrality. Data is shared here and via the Carbon Commitment for comparison with peer institutions.

Current GHG Inventory (FY2019)

The GHG inventory is calculated using the SIMAP® calculator, which uses an accounting protocol based on the World Resources Institute GHG Protocol. The GHG Protocol is the world's most widely used greenhouse gas accounting standard and is used by campuses in the Carbon Commitment to ensure consistency and rigor in reporting.  Explore the data to see our progress to date. 

To date, Cornell has reduced emissions 36% from the 2008 baseline.  Previous greenhouse gas inventories can be viewed on the Second Nature Reporting website.



Depiction of the three types of greenhouse gases according to organizational responsibility for accounting.  Scope 1 direct emissions including energy produced and used by company vehicles and buildings are primary, scope 2 indirect emissions from purchased electricity are secondary, and over fifteen additional measurement areas such as upstream disposal of goods comprise tertiary or Scope 3 emissions.
Scopes allow institutions to measure greenhouse gases according to the level of direct control and oversight.  To learn more about scopes and accounting protocol visit the Greenhouse Gas Protocol FAQs on "what is the difference between direct and indirect emissions?"

Methodology

Boundaries

Emissions are measured for the Ithaca campus only.  Emissions from various greenhouse gases are inventoried and translated into carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent. The University uses the operational control approach. The Carbon Commitment requires a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory of the following emission sources:

  • Scope 1: On-site combustion of fossil fuels

  • Scope 2: Purchased electricity consumption

  • Scope 3: Institution-funded business air travel and student, faculty, and staff commuting

Scope 1 measurement, which is primarily concerned with the production of heat and power from our Central Energy Plant and other production sources does not include the measurement of upstream impacts, such as fossil fuel extraction or delivery.  These are considered Scope 3 sources.  See below for Cornell's approach to these areas. 

Additional Scope 3 Accounting

In 2016, Cornell adopted the use of an additional scope 3 inventory for the measurement of new, emerging, or additional areas of Scope 3 greenhouse gas measurement beyond the original baseline.  Currently the secondary inventory includes  methane leakage from natural gas use. View additional inventory on methane leakage from natural gas use,


Accessible Text Descriptions of GHG Inventories

2018 GHG Inventory

The fiscal year 2018 carbon footprint for the Ithaca Campus is 205,193 metric tons of CO2-equivalent (MTCO2e), a reduction of 114,432 MTCO2e from the 2008 baseline. This is equivalent to a 36% reduction in baseline emissions. 

Rationale

This significant reduction is the result of many initiatives and the work of hundreds of people across campus to create a culture of sustainability. Some key initiatives include continued utilization of the combined heat and power plant, our Beyond Coal initiative (which eliminated coal as a fuel source used to heat and power the campus), the building energy conservation initiative, a significantly lower grid electric emission factor, and increased use of renewable energy, including the introduction of new solar arrays to provide clean power to the campus.  Cornell University's continued support of the carbon neutrality goal can be seen through ongoing efforts to deliver on the Climate Action Plan.

Data Table

Note that some variation in annual emissions numbers can be expected due to ongoing improvements to emission factors by international climate scientists contributing to the GHG Protcol and other accounting methods.  Some public reporting inventories "backdate" new science about emissions, meaning older reports change over time, while others remain stationary.  

2018 GHG Inventory
Emissions Category 2018 Emissions 2008 Baseline Emissions
Scope 1 (Onsite Combustion & Fleet Vehicles) 181,914 176,691
Scope 2 (Purchased Electricity) 3,320 86,439
Scope 3 (Business Travel & Commuting) 52,813 55,496 
Carbon Sinks -32,853 -
Net Emissions 205,194 318,625
 
Interactive Graphs