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Carbon sequestered in the trees on a university campus: a case study

Charl De Villiers (The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand and University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa)
Sile Chen (The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)
Chenxing jin (The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)
Yiner Zhu (The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 6 May 2014

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Abstract

Purpose

The authors aim to investigate the ability of a New Zealand university to rely on the CO2 sequestered in the trees on campus to mitigate the CO2 emissions caused by operations.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors count and measure the trees on the university's 68 hectare main campus, ignoring smaller trees that sequester very little CO2.

Findings

The authors estimate that the 4,139 trees the authors count contain 5,809 tonnes of CO2. The authors further estimate the additional CO2 sequestration over the next ten years to be 253 tonnes per year. The university's annual CO2 emissions were 4,086 tonnes in 2011. More than 70 per cent of this amount relates to overseas travel. Therefore, CO2 sequestration in trees promises to mitigate only about 6 per cent of total emissions over the next ten years.

Practical implications

This suggests that other initiatives will be needed if the university is serious about reducing its greenhouse gas emissions impact. An obvious avenue appears to be to reduce overseas travel, e.g. by finding different ways for academic staff to network and obtain feedback on their research. Other universities and other organisations starting to investigate their environmental impact are likely to similarly find that CO2 sequestration in trees can only provide limited mitigation opportunities.

Originality/value

The authors contribute to the ongoing debate around carbon emissions, exploring avenues to mitigate CO2 emissions.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Carol Adams for comments and feedback on an earlier draft of the paper.

Citation

De Villiers, C., Chen, S., jin, C. and Zhu, Y. (2014), "Carbon sequestered in the trees on a university campus: a case study", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 149-171. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-11-2013-0048

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited