Aerial view of campus overlooking Environment 3

Overview  |  Purpose  |  Background  |  Process  |  Get involved  |  FAQs


Waterloo is in the process of developing the first ever Climate and Energy Action Plan (CEAP) for the campus. The University has acknowledged that it has a role to play in addressing the pressing global challenge of climate change, which will impact communities locally and around the world.

Waterloo already mobilizes world-renowned teaching and research related to the development of a sustainable, low-carbon future, including interdisciplinary research institutes, innovative curriculum, and cross-sector partnerships. Some examples include:

The Climate and Energy Action Plan will develop a roadmap for how the University can address climate change by reducing emissions generated through campus operations. Although this roadmap will stretch to 2050, it will integrate an ongoing monitoring and regular review process that splits specific actions into more manageable increments. 
The planning process is being led by the Climate and Energy Working Group of the President's Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability. For more information, contact


The CEAP will form Waterloo's institutional response to the challenge of climate change. It seeks to reduce emissions, optimize operational costs, and improve energy efficiency. 

To keep Waterloo's action aligned with a science-based approach, the Climate and Energy Action Plan will seek to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

This will support commitments and requirements that the University has made, including:

In addition, the action plan would support the following benefits to the University community:

  • Supporting improvements to the indoor quality and comfort of teaching and learning facilities
  • Improving outdoor air quality
  • Supporting community action to reduce emissions, locally through globally
  • Identifying and managing long-term risk exposure
  • Managing long-term utility cost exposure
  • Optimize investment into facilities renewal
  • Enabling further teaching, learning, and research opportunities using the campus as a living laboratory for social change


Waterloo produces carbon emissions from a variety of direct and indirect sources. These include heating and cooling buildings, lab equipment, lighting and computing equipment, travelling to campus, waste generation, purchased products, and food consumed.

Of these sources, energy used in Waterloo's buildings accounts for approximately 75% of all direct and indirect emissions that Waterloo currently measures. Approximately 65% of all emissions come from natural gas, which is primarily used to heat buildings and hot water.

For a detailed breakdown of energy use and emissions on campus, visit the Climate and Energy Data dashboards.

Focusing Action

The Climate and Energy Action Plan will focus in its first iteration on building-related emissions from electricity and natural gas, as well as emissions from the University's vehicle fleet (Scope 1 and 2 emissions under the Greenhouse Gas Protocol). This area is illustrated in green shading on Figure 1 below.

While transportation and waste produce emissions, they are better managed through separate planning processes, such as the Zero Waste Waterloo Action Plan. Recommendations in the CEAP will reference these as important sources of emissions to measure, monitor, and manage.

New directions

The Climate and Energy Working Group has discussed various strategies that would be necessary to shift away from "business as usual," as illustrated in Figure 3 above. While specific recommendations will be further researched and developed as part of the action planning process, for context the following are common high-level directions from many comparable plans at other higher education institutions and which would be reflected to some extent across Waterloo's approach.

Efficiency iconEnergy Efficiency: Reducing the amount of energy needed to operate new and existing infrastructure through retrofits, better insulation, and high-efficiency equipment.

Optimization iconOptimizing Systems: Improving scheduling, monitoring, and distribution to only use energy when and where it is needed, and recovering energy waste whenever possible.

behaviour change iconBehaviour Change: Empowering students and employees with tools, training, incentives, and programs to reduce energy use.


low carbon energy iconLow-Carbon Energy: Integrating renewable and other low-carbon sources of energy where possible.

governance iconPolicy and Governance: Aligning policies and processes, tracking and measuring, and purchasing offsets for emissions that are difficult to eliminate.


Process and timelines

Key dates and milestones throughout the CEAP development process include:

  • Fall 2017: Released Environmental Sustainability Strategy and signed Council of Ontario Universities commitment
  • Winter 2018: Formed the Climate and Energy Working Group of the President's Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability
  • Spring 2018: Conducted interviews with other campuses and researched sector approaches and best practices
  • Fall 2018: Developed baseline and business as usual information, updated emissions inventory, and identified important technical pathways to reach carbon neutral
  • Winter 2019: Began discussions with key stakeholders, including an afternoon workshop in January with faculty and administrators to gain input on background materials and directions. Launched five public open house events in March to enable public comment, and opened online comment opportunity in April.
  • Spring 2019: 
    • Continued public consultations to generate further stakeholder input
    • Began drafted core plan recommendations iteratively alongside feedback
  • Fall 2019: 
    • Completed draft recommendations for climate action plan
    • Initiated approval process
    • Launched RFP for energy audit to determine feasibility of additional efficiency measures in existing buildings
  • 2020+: Will continue approval approcess and begin implementation of the first phases of the Climate and Energy Action Plan

Get involved

Advancing climate action on campus will take involvement of all students and employees. Consultations will be conducted at various stages through the process to provide an opportunity for input and feedback. We encourage you to share your ideas.

How many emissions do you produce each year?

Visit the Project Neutral tool and input your information to estimate how many emissions you create and opportunities to reduce.

There are many tools and resources available to reduce emissions.

Check out the Sustainability Guide for tips and resources on and off campus.