Fiscal Year 2023 Update

Since Duke’s 2007 baseline year, the university has reduced its overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 38%. These emissions reductions have been achieved despite significant campus growth, with Duke’s square footage increasing by 27% and population growing by 24% during the same time period. Emissions have been reduced through a combination of the discontinuation of the use of coal on campus, significant increases in building and utility plant efficiency, and commuting reductions. Additional emission reductions are planned through Duke’s investment in off-site solar energy and on-campus infrastructure projects such as steam-to-hot-water conversions and installing heat recovery chillers.

Despite the long-term emissions reduction trend, Duke’s emissions in 2023 rose approximately 9% compared to 2022 as the emissions suppressed by the COVID-19 pandemic continued to rebound. This increase was largely driven by air travel emissions returning to nearly pre-pandemic levels. Duke’s energy-related emissions are continuing to decrease year over year and have decreased by 41% since Duke’s 2007 baseline year. Though overall emissions are up slightly compared to last year, 2023’s emissions are still 21% lower than the last pre-pandemic year (2019). See chart below to see reductions to date and emissions projected out to 2030.

graph of Duke's 2023 greenhouse gas emissions. There was a 38% reduction in emissions since 2007.

In the coming year, Duke will celebrate meeting its 2024 neutrality goal as planned by  continued on-campus reductions, investments in renewable energy, and the procurement of high-quality carbon offsets. Though achieving carbon neutrality in 2024 will be an important milestone for the university, it is not the end point. Duke is already assessing projected emissions beyond 2024 to identify even greater internal campus reductions and significantly reduce the need for carbon offsets. Duke University expects to be the first large research university on the east coast to reach carbon neutrality and will serve as a leader as other universities near their goals.

To see a fuller update on fiscal year 2023's emissions, please view this slide deck. 

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Boundary

Based on Duke’s signing of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the University  committed to set a carbon neutrality target for various emission-generating activities. The CAP identifies Duke University’s overall emissions in three distinct scopes (outlined in the figure below) to address the unique attributes and extent of each. Duke University generally follows GHG accounting guidance from the World Resources Institute.

graphic of Duke's greenhouse gas emissions boundary
Duke's greenhouse gas boundary includes emissions from the following activities: fuel used in campus steam and hot water plants, fuel used in Duke owned fleet vehicles, purchase electricity, business air travel, employee commuting, fugitive emissions from energy related activities, and landfilled waste.


Duke's Geographic Boundary

Similar to the emissions boundary outlined in the previous section, Duke University also had to define a geographic boundary for its GHG emissions accounting. Both the 2009 and 2019 Climate Action Plans identify targets for entities that the university directly owns and operates. This means that the CAP outlines emission reduction strategies for the University (re: academic portion of Duke University), the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, and Duke’s Marine Lab. The Duke University Health System, leased assets, and Duke’s international campuses are not included in its geographic boundaries. 

It should be noted that the operational changes and future campus emission reduction measures may also result in a lower GHG footprint for DUHS facilities that are located contiguously with West Campus since the buildings are conditioned by the central plants that condition the rest of West Campus.

Duke's geographic boundary
Duke geographic boundary for greenhouse emissions includes the University, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and the Marine Lab. It excludes emissions generated from the Health System, leased assets, and Duke's international campuses.