UC’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative

Across all the UC campuses, there are numerous student organizations dedicated to working towards climate neutrality and a more sustainable future. These grassroots movements are an invaluable source of environmental-awareness sentiment, but there needs to be action on a large scale in order to create significant changes that will lead to reductions in carbon emissions. In November 2013, President Janet Napolitano committed the University of California to the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, calling for UC to reach carbon neutrality by 2025. UC would become the first major university to accomplish this sustainability goal.

UC Climate Goals:
A UC report outlining recommendations for implementing climate neutrality was first published in 2011. The report, Prospectus for a Sustainable Future, set three main goals:
1. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions to year 2000 levels by 2014
2. Reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020
3. Achieve climate neutrality as soon as feasible.

Scope of the Challenge:
UC could be emitting as much as 2.15 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2) by 2020, which is twice the amount of our emissions level goal (1.05 million MTCO2). According to the climate solutions report, all campuses need large-scale, off-site solutions to achieve the 2020 goal.

Emission Sources:
1. Scope 1: Direct greenhouse gas emissions from sources that UC campuses control. These emissions come from combustion of natural gas in UC’s six co-generation (heat and power) plants.
2. Scope 2: Indirect greenhouse gas emissions generated from production of UC purchases. These emissions come from the production of electricity and steam that the UC purchases.
Scope 1 and 2 emissions account for about 75% of UC’s total emissions.

Recommended Strategies:
Three main strategies have been outlined to avert carbon costs and control renewable energy costs while allowing UC to achieve our climate goals:
1. Minimize energy consumption through deep energy-efficiency (expand the Statewide Energy Partnership Program—comprehensive energy-efficiency retrofit program).
2. Procure renewable energy to counter UC’S Scope 2 emissions. Strive to attain renewable energy that is comparable in price to utility-supplied electricity.
3. Obtain biomethane (climate neutral; harvested from controlled decomposition of organic matter) for use in UC natural gas infrastructure to counter Scope 1 emissions.

Call to Action:
UC is making progress through campus-based energy conservation and renewable energy production (primarily solar), but is not on track to meet our 2020 greenhouse gas emission goal of attaining 1990 emissions levels. We need to take early actions in investing in renewable power, to allow our university campuses to reach climate neutrality.

CarbonNeutralityby: Linda Tong, UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative Student Fellow