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Tel Aviv University sets eye on becoming Israel’s first campus carbon-neutral campus

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As the world marks the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, the university said that part of its plan is to ‘promote more efficient use of resources and renewable energy’

By ILANIT CHERNICK

In what’s been deemed a first for an Israeli university, Tel Aviv University is working to become Israel’s first carbon-neutral campus. 

On Monday, the university said that is developing a plan to make its campus greener with the aim of reducing greenhouse gasses generated by its activities.

According to the university, “efforts to combat climate change are among its top priorities.”

As the world marks the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, “[we] are promoting more efficient use of resources and renewable energy,” TAU said. “The university places great importance on reducing its environmental footprint by using sustainable energy, recycling water and materials, reducing the use of paper, introducing green purchasing procedures and other activities designed to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint, and eventually attain carbon neutrality.”

A team of academic and administrative experts appointed by TAU’s Green Campus Committee and headed by TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat, launched a comprehensive inspection to assess the overall carbon footprint (in terms of CO2 equivalent) and water footprint of all TAU activities both on and off-campus. 

Speaking about the initiative, Porat said that “as a leading academic research and teaching institution in the fields of ecology and environmental science,” TAU is committed to addressing the climate crisis.

TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat is leading a team of experts with the aim of making the university carbon neutral.
(Photo credit: Tel Aviv University)

“TAU established an ‘initiative for carbon neutrality’ about a year ago – the first of its kind at an Israeli university,” he explained. “Currently, we are completing the initial inspection, and its findings will serve as a foundation for a strategic plan that will significantly reduce the campus’ carbon footprint, and eventually bring us as close as possible to carbon neutrality. 

Porat pointed out that part of the assessment includes several facets like looking at the university’s energy consumption from various sources on its campus, water consumption, transportation to and on campus, construction inputs, pruning and gardening, waste production and food consumption, serving utensils and packaging at cafes and kiosks on campus, and more. 

Based on their report, the university said it will formulate “a strategic plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus and reaching carbon neutrality.”

For co-head of the initiative, Prof. Marcelo Sternberg, being one of the leaders of this plan is a “proud” moment.  

Sternberg, who is a professor at the School of Plant Sciences and Food Security at TAU’s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, said that he is proud to be a part of this “historic move toward reducing TAU’s carbon footprint and turning it into a sustainable institution.”

“The current climate crisis leaves no room for inaction,” he said. “As a teaching and research institution, we can show the government and society the way to reducing the environmental footprint and ensuring a better world for future generations.” 

“It can be done, and we will do it,” Sternberg emphasized.

Lior Hazan, chair of TAU’s Student Union, shared serious concerns about how “the climate crisis is spreading and intensifying.”
“It is no longer something occurring far away, it is happening right here and now,” he stressed. “We, the young people, have the power to change and work for a better future, in face of the gravest crisis of the 21st century, and academia is an excellent place to begin.”

He called students to become leading ambassadors of this cause, since they are the future of society, industry, and leadership, and to this end, we must change and introduce change for the benefit of our planet. 

Hazan said that the Student Union is playing an active role in the university’s initiative and will continue to work towards “the rapid reduction of environmental damage.”

Porat made it clear that “as a leading public university, it is our duty to lead the efforts for addressing the climate crisis on and beyond our campus. We hope that other institutions will join us.”

“Time is running out and we must act immediately,” he concluded.

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