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Sustainable development: Pledges honored, towards carbon neutrality

In 2020, École Polytechnique fulfilled its ambitious commitments to make sustainable development a strategic priority. It succeeded in making sustainable development a common purpose for its whole community.

Le campus de l'X au printemps

At the international symposium "RefleXions: Research, training and action for sustainable development", the School took five major commitments that are now an integral part of its strategy:

*The implementation of a sustainable development training certification. The School has continued its work to set up this certification designed to provide in-depth training on sustainability issues for all engineering students and a large part of the MSC&T Masters. This certificate will benefit in particular from the activities of the Chair in Transition Technologies supported by Accenture as part of a strategic partnership with the Institut Polytechnique de Paris.

*The training of all students in sustainable development. A second Sustainable Development seminar, mandatory for all engineering students, was organized over one week in April. Its program was co-constructed by the School's professors-researchers and students, highlighting its achievements in terms of research, experimentation and campus development.

*The launch of an interdisciplinary center for renewable energy. Launched in June 2019, the Energy for Climate Centre (E4C) brings together experts from around 30 laboratories and now employs 240 permanent staff members working on 8 research topics. In terms of training, the E4C center has developed its offer of interdisciplinary Masters dedicated to energy and the environment and four PhD Track courses. It encompasses an entrepreneurship program on energy open to Masters and PhD students wishing to create a start-up in these fields. The E4C was one of the contributors to the first regional report on climate in the Mediterranean, MedECC, which received the Council of Europe's 2020 North-South Prize.

*The launch of an international student challenge. After a first E4C International Student Challenge in 2019 aimed at creating a carbon-free city, a second edition started on September 30 targeting local initiatives to reach carbon neutrality. "Objective Carbon Neutrality 2050 : Local variations" is looking to select the best ideas to contribute to carbon neutrality in a company, a campus, a city or a line of business.

*A carbon-neutral campus. A new carbon assessment of the campus was carried out between May and July 2020 to identify the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions. This carbon audit includes the direct and indirect carbon impacts of the School thanks to a systemic approach. It shows a total carbon footprint of 15,586 tons of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) in 2019, or 2.8 tCO2e per campus user. A figure obviously too high as the total carbon footprint of a French resident has to be reduced to the equivalent of 2tCO2e to remain within the limits defined by the Paris Agreement. The carbon assessment identified six main sources of direct and indirect emissions on the campus - energy and buildings, mobility and transportation, purchasing and research equipment, digital, food services and waste - which are all levers for improvement. Three of them account for 80% of the School’s emissions: energy (36%), buildings and research equipment (24%) and mobility, which includes business travel by airplane and commuting (20%).

This carbon footprint is the starting point for setting the sustainability objectives for the campus, starting with a 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and moving toward carbon neutrality by 2050. These ambitions will be spelled this year in the School's Climate Plan.