Acronyms and Definitions


AASHE: Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

BMS: Building Management System

CPM: Capital Project Management

CUIMC: Columbia University Irving Medical Center

CLCPA: Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (New York)

CY: Calendar Year

CN: Carbon Neutrality

ECM: Energy Conservation Measure

EJ: Environmental Justice

EUI: Energy Use Intensity

FY: Fiscal Year

GHG: Greenhouse Gas

GtCO2e: 1 gigaton or 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent

IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

LB: Location-Based Scope 2 Accounting Method

LDEO: Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory

LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

LEED-ND: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Neighborhood Development

LL97: Local Law 97

MB: Market-Based Scope 2 Accounting Method

NYPA: New York Power Authority

RCM: Retro-commissioning Measure

REC: Renewable Energy Credit

ROI: Return on Investment

SBT: Science Based Target

SBTi: Science Based Targets Initiative

SOV: Single Occupancy Vehicle

SSAC: Senior Sustainability Advisory Committee

STARS: Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System

tCO2e: Metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent

TCR: The Climate Registry

UN: United Nations

UNEP: United Nations Environment Programme

WG: Working Group

WWF: World Wildlife Fund for Nature

Key Definitions

Additionality: Reductions in emissions that are additional to any that would occur in the absence of the certified project activity. Emission reduction activities are “additional” if they create an extra benefit in the future that would not have occurred but for the action of the party claiming credit for the additionality.

Baker Field Athletics Complex: Columbia’s principal outdoor athletic facility, located on a 26 acre site in northern Manhattan. The complex has six buildings with a total of 208,000 square feet of space.

Carbon Neutrality: Also referred to as net zero CO2 emissions. In the scientific context, this is achieved when anthropogenic (human caused or influenced) CO2 emissions are balanced globally by anthropogenic CO2 removals.

Columbia Global Centers: Research outposts established by Columbia University in nine locations around the world: Amman, Beijing, Istanbul, Mumbai, Nairobi, Paris, Rio, Santiago, and Tunis.

Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC): A major teaching hospital and home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State. It is located in Washington Heights in Manhattan, has 22 buildings with over 3.25 million square feet of building space and 2,460 full time faculty, 8,060 full time staff, and 3,467 enrolled students.

Compensation: The use of discrete GHG reductions accomplished beyond an organization’s value chain to “compensate” for, or offset, that organization's GHG emissions.

Earth Institute: A research institute at Columbia University, established in 1995, to address complex issues facing the planet and its inhabitants, with a focus on sustainable development.

Environmental Justice: A fair distribution of environmental harms and benefits that also recognizes the need to redress historical and cumulative harms.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG): A gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy causing a greenhouse effect. UNEP estimates that global greenhouse gases from 2010 through 2019 comprised 65% of carbon dioxide from fossil sources (energy use and industry), 17% methane excluding land-use change (LUC), 10% carbon dioxide from LUC, 4.9% nitrous-oxide excluding LUC, 2.6% fluorinated gases excluding LUC, and 0.5% nitrous-oxide and fluorinated gases from LUC[1]. For reporting purposes, international accounting standards require inclusion of all the specific GHGs required by the UNFCCC/Kyoto Protocol. These GHGs currently are: carbon dioxide (CO2 ), methane (CH 4 ), nitrous oxide (N 2 O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF 6 ), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF 3 ).

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO): A research unit of the Earth Institute at Columbia University that focuses on the earth sciences. LDEO is located on a 157 acre campus, 18 miles north of Manhattan on the Hudson River. LDEO has 18 buildings comprising about 390,000 square feet of space. 

Location-Based Method (LB): Scope 2 emissions are reported in two ways, using the “location-based” and “market-based” methods. The location-based accounting method reflects the GHG emissions of the local grid regardless of purchasing choices made by the reporting entity.

Manhattanville (MHVL): A 17 acre planned development north of the Morningside Campus with 6.8 million square feet to be built in phases and completed by 2030. MHVL is currently comprised of eight buildings with about 1.2 million square feet of space.    

Market-Based Method: Scope 2 emissions are reported in two ways, using the “location-based” and “market-based” methods. The market-based accounting method reflects the GHG emissions associated with the choices an entity makes with respect to the power it purchases. For example, the market-based method allows Columbia to reflect that NYPA hydropower it purchases has zero emissions. It also allows Columbia to offset emissions from grid power through the purchase of RECs.

Morningside+: A designation that applies to the boundaries of the initial Columbia GHG inventory that was reported to TCR. The boundaries include all of Columbia’s campuses except CUIMC, LDEO, Global Centers and miscellaneous stand-alone buildings in midtown and downtown Manhattan.

Net Zero Emissions: Achieved when all anthropogenic greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere are balanced by anthropogenic removals. All GHGs required by the UNFCCC/Kyoto Protocol are included, i.e. carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

Neutralization: Involves removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it for a long enough period to fully offset the impact of GHG emissions that continue to be released.

Nevis Labs: A physics research facility operated by Columbia University’s Physics Department. Located on a 60 acre property in Irvington, New York, Nevis Labs has 17 buildings with about 152,000 square feet of usable area.

Overshoot: Overshoot occurs where a mitigation emissions scenario exceeds its maximum cumulative emissions budget and must then accomplish GHG reductions in excess of net zero to come back into alignment with that maximum budget.

Renewable Energy Credit (REC): Also known as Renewable Energy Certificate or Renewable Electricity Certificate are tradable, intangible energy commodities in the US that represent the environmental attributes of 1 MWh of renewable electricity.

Residual Emissions: Emissions that remain unabated by the time net zero emissions is reached. Some of these may be subsequently abated in the second half of the century, others will remain unabated for economic or technical reasons.

Science Based Targets: Emissions reduction targets that are in line with what the latest climate science says is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – to limit global warming to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Science Based Targets initiative: “A joint initiative by CDP, the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF intended to increase corporate ambition on climate action by mobilizing companies to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets consistent with the level of decarbonization required by science to limit warming to less than 1.5ºC / 2°C compared to preindustrial temperatures."[2]

Scope 1 Emissions: Direct, on-site anthropogenic emissions from owned or controlled sources: stationary combustion of fuel, mobile combustion of fuel, process emissions, and fugitive emissions.

Scope 2 Emissions: Indirect emissions from the consumption of purchased electricity, steam, heating, and cooling.

Scope 3 Emissions: All indirect emissions (not otherwise included in Scope 2) that fall within Columbia’s value chain, including both upstream and downstream sources.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP): The leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.

[1] Source: “Emissions Gap Report 2020”, UNEP, Table 2-1, page 5.

[2] Source: “Target setting pitfalls and lessons learned”, Science Based Targets, September 2017.