Catawba goes carbon neutral, Gov. Cooper visits

Published 12:10 am Friday, April 28, 2023

SALISBURY — Gov. Roy Cooper was in town for a special announcement on Thursday as Catawba College became the first campus in the state to be certified as carbon neutral.

The achievement was well ahead of the timetable initially planned for the college that is paving the way for higher-level institutions around the state and region. 

In 2007, Catawba College made a climate commitment through Second Nature to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. 

Carbon neutrality is a state of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions that can be achieved by ending the use of coal, oil and gas or by participating in efforts to offset those emissions through other carbon dioxide reduction platforms. 

Second Nature is a national nonprofit organization seeking to accelerate climate action in and through higher education. It established a Climate Leadership Network involving more than 600 colleges and universities in every state and the District of Columbia that have committed to climate change action and preparing students through related research and education.

Not only was Catawba the first carbon-neutral campus in the state, it was the first in the Southeast to achieve the mark. Of the hundreds of colleges pledged to reach carbon neutrality, Catawba is the 13th. 

“One of the underpinnings of the commitment is that higher education needs to practice what it teaches,” said Tim Carter, executive director of Second Nature. “Putting that into practice is a different story. Catawba has not treated it like a thought experiment. It’s one thing to commit to action. It’s another thing to actually achieve it.”

Catawba President David P. Nelson added that Thursday’s announcement was decades in the making. 

“It didn’t just happen,” Nelson said. “It involved the vision of people who imagined that this could actually happen. It involves a lot of people who did a lot of hard work along the way.”

According to the governor, green, renewable energy is the next frontier for manufacturing and technology, and he wants to make North Carolina a premier destination for investment in the fields. He championed Catawba’s accomplishments and encouraged other colleges and universities around the state to follow the Salisbury-based school’s lead.

See more details in the weekend edition of the Salisbury Post.