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Longfor, N.R.; Hu, J.; Li, Y.; Qian, X.; Zhou, W. Scientometric Trends and Knowledge Gaps of Zero-Emission Campuses. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 20 June 2024).
Longfor NR, Hu J, Li Y, Qian X, Zhou W. Scientometric Trends and Knowledge Gaps of Zero-Emission Campuses. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2024.
Longfor, Nkweauseh Reginald, Jiarong Hu, You Li, Xuepeng Qian, Weisheng Zhou. "Scientometric Trends and Knowledge Gaps of Zero-Emission Campuses" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 20, 2024).
Longfor, N.R., Hu, J., Li, Y., Qian, X., & Zhou, W. (2023, December 18). Scientometric Trends and Knowledge Gaps of Zero-Emission Campuses. In Encyclopedia.
Longfor, Nkweauseh Reginald, et al. "Scientometric Trends and Knowledge Gaps of Zero-Emission Campuses." Encyclopedia. Web. 18 December, 2023.
Scientometric Trends and Knowledge Gaps of Zero-Emission Campuses

Climate change inarguably remains mankind’s biggest challenge, and has now become a reality people must deal with. Universities are pivotal in driving decarbonization and sustainable development, given their crucial societal and educational responsibilities in shaping the minds of future leaders. As the urgency of addressing climate change grows, strategies such as developing zero-emission campuses to achieve carbon neutrality are becoming increasingly crucial. Yet, research in this field remains somewhat underdeveloped and fragmented. Scientometric Analysis serves as an excellent method for consolidating discoveries from recent studies, pinpointing gaps in research, and offering critical perspectives on evolving trends in scholarly inquiry.

carbon neutrality net zero emissions sustainable development universities

1. Introduction

Climate change inarguably remains mankind’s biggest challenge, and has now become a reality people must deal with. The anthropogenic emissions of CO2 in the atmosphere have negatively impacted the environment to levels that have prompted humanity to take immediate action towards carbon neutrality [1]. As a strategy for combating this global threat, there has been discussion about intergenerational equity and developing a sustainable lifestyle [2]. Because sustainability is a difficult concept to grasp, there are numerous perspectives on what it means to be sustainable [3]. One of these includes offsetting the anthropogenic CO2 emissions through carbon capture while adopting clean and renewable energy sources thus attaining net zero emissions [4].
The fulcrum of global attention being paid to the phenomenon of net zero emissions was the Paris agreement of 2015, which aimed to keep the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to limit global warming to less than 1.5 °C Celsius; immediate action is required to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 44% below 2010 levels by 2030, with net zero emissions by 2050 [4][5][6]. Due to the increasing urgency of the climate crisis, it is now one of the most discussed environmental issues, and it has become a part of nearly every school’s curriculum in order to give future generations the best chance of combating climate change [7][8][9][10][11].
Cities around the world have recognized their critical role in the fight against global warming, and have committed to reducing emissions and becoming carbon neutral despite these challenges [12][13][14]. At the end of the 2019 United Nations climate action summit, this resolution was ratified [15]. But, academics have criticized their climate change initiatives for lacking enthusiasm and ambition [16][17]. However, these criticisms are weakened by the lack of macro-studies that evaluate the efforts of major cities around the world in the fight against climate change [18].
According to the IPCC [19], cities around the world can achieve net zero GHG emissions if they phase out fossil fuels, use renewable energy sources (RESs), encourage behavior change, improve energy efficiency (EE) for both supply and demand, and implement negative emissions measures. The journey to net zero emissions necessitates the active commitment and coordination of public bodies at all levels of government, as well as non-state [20][21] and other societal actors [22][23][24]. If local governments and non-state actors are not dedicated to or equipped for carrying out their responsibilities, national policies may be undermined. Furthermore, insufficient coordination among various governance actors may prevent local actors from responding appropriately to emerging threats [25][26].
In an effort to promote sustainable development through systemic institutional changes at the local level, universities all over the world are implementing local initiatives known as “zero emission universities” within cities [27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35]. Universities are ideally suited to take the lead in the movement toward carbon neutrality due to their high energy consumption, extensive research capabilities [32][36], and ability to train tomorrow’s citizens and climate leaders via practical experience [37][38][39][40]. As a result of their commitment to and the implementation of sustainable development policies [41][42], adoption of renewables, and adaptation within their operations [43][44], zero-emission universities can impact responses to climate change.

2. Zero-Emission Campuses

Universities are pivotal in driving decarbonization and sustainable development, given their crucial societal and educational responsibilities in shaping the minds of future leaders [45]. With the swift expansion of university infrastructures globally, it is imperative to adopt strategies that emphasize low-carbon emissions and energy efficiency. Ali et al. [46] examined the influence of South African University Campuses on greenhouse gas emissions and the generation of renewable energy, concluding that the existing engagement is insufficiently effective. This underscores the necessity for fresh initiatives for eco-friendly campuses and policy direction from African governments. Mohamed et al. [47] conducted an analysis of sustainability indicator adoption at three University Campuses in Malaysia, utilizing the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking. Their focus was on key indicators, including infrastructure setting, energy and climate change policy, waste management, water usage, transportation systems, and sustainability in education. However, the primary challenge for universities is to figure out how to reduce their carbon footprint for decarbonization. Carbon emissions from universities fall into three categories: scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3. Scope 1 includes direct emissions from university facilities and vehicles, while scope 2 includes direct emissions primarily from electricity purchases. Scope 3 includes indirect emissions from the institution’s operations, also known as value chain emissions. This includes everything from on-site-manufactured goods to student/staff transportation to waste generated in operations.
Scope 3 emissions are said to be a major problem for universities due to the high population density on campus and the fact that they are practically impossible to measure, making them difficult to regulate [48]. Additionally, universities’ energy-intensive facilities make meeting their proposed emission targets difficult [49]. Numerous studies on the subject have primarily concentrated on reducing scope 1 and 2 emissions [50][51] while discussing incentives for reducing scope 3 emissions [52][53][54][55][56]. These, on the other hand, indicate universities’ ability to achieve operational carbon neutrality by reducing scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030 [49] and scope 3 emissions by 2050, hence becoming zero emission campuses. Cano et al. [57] calculated the carbon footprint of emissions corresponding to scopes 1, 2, and 3 of urban Columbian universities. The authors identified the transportation process as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (58.51%), followed by the wastewater process (17.01%), electricity consumption (14.03%), and e-mails sent (6.51%). Also, Mustafa et al. [58] estimated the carbon footprint of NED university of engineering and technology in Pakistan and identified a carbon footprint of 21,500 metric tons of equivalent CO2, with scope 1 and 2 emissions contributing 7% of carbon footprint, while scope 3 emissions accounted for 85.6% of the carbon footprint. However, in order to examine recent advances in the interdisciplinary fields of carbon emissions, carbon footprints, and advanced management methods, the zero-carbon campus terminology must be thoroughly examined and broadly interpreted.

3. Rationale for Scientometric Analysis

Scientometric Analysis serves as an excellent method for consolidating discoveries from recent studies, pinpointing gaps in research, and offering critical perspectives on evolving trends in scholarly inquiry. Sen et al. [33] conducted a systematic review of some targeted higher education institutions that are part of Australia’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality. Helmers et al. [59] compared the carbon footprint at several universities objectively using standardized carbon footprint metrics. They identified only one zero-emission university (Leuphana University in Germany) and advocated for higher education institutions around the world to undergo rapid transformation. Kourgiozou et al. [55] outlined the recent scholarly work concerning smart building principles and smart energy systems on university campuses in the UK higher education sector. The paper then delved into the opportunities and challenges of integrating smart energy systems into university campuses, examining them through the lenses of policy and technology. Shboul et al. [54] endeavored to perform a statistical analysis of the campus as an integrated system, incorporating viewpoints from faculty, staff, and students (the campus users), aiming for a net-zero carbon footprint. This was pursued by creating an index to gauge the likelihood of adopting sustainable behavioral changes.
While previous studies have focused on quantifying and reducing the carbon footprint of universities, this study will map the linkage or working relationships among clusters of zero-emission campus research and their network to analyze the emerging trend during the last decades. Additionally, no prior research has analyzed its research scope to such depth, including bibliometric indicators like co-citation clusters, keywords, or research clusters. Thus, this research represents an original contribution to academia by filling a gap in the literature regarding the systemic institutional changes needed for zero-emission campuses.


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