Carbon Neutrality Initiative

UC, a national leader in sustainability, has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025, becoming the first major university to accomplish this achievement.

Global climate disruption is impacting the planet in ways never experienced in human history. Warmer temperatures are contributing to changing weather patterns that cause more intense storms and heavier rainfall in some places, while elsewhere drought is parching the land. Glaciers are melting at an accelerated rate and oceans are rising.

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that climate change is being driven by the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels.

The University of California has responded to this growing environmental crisis with direct action aimed at ending its reliance on fossil fuels.

In November 2013, President Janet Napolitano announced the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, which commits UC to emitting net zero greenhouse gases from its buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025, something no other major university system has done.

The initiative builds on UC's pioneering work on climate research and furthers its leadership on sustainable business practices. UC is improving its energy efficiency, developing new sources of renewable energy and enacting a range of related strategies to cut carbon emissions.

Harnessing UC’s leadership in sustainability

The initiative capitalizes on UC's historic standing as a sustainability leader. In 2004, UC enacted a systemwide Sustainable Practices Policy, which positioned the university as a leader in environmentally sound operations. And in 2007, all 10 UC chancellors signed the American College and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

To achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, UC will need to take bold steps to expand its energy efficiency efforts and dramatically increase its use of energy from renewable sources. UC is moving forward on several different fronts.

President Napolitano formed a Global Climate Leadership Council to advise UC on achieving the ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025 (pdf) while also providing guidance for furthering its other longstanding sustainability goals. The council will also provide guidance on integrating the carbon neutrality initiative and other sustainability goals into UC’s teaching, research and public service mission.

The council is comprised of scientists, administrators, students and experts from inside and outside UC and will engage the entire university community in its effort to seek out the best practices, policies and technology to achieve carbon neutrality and to advance teaching and research in climate change and sustainability.

The council is organized around key areas of contribution toward the initiative’s success:

  • Energy services
  • Applicable research
  • Campus and medical center climate action plans
  • Sustainability policy
  • Faculty engagement
  • Student engagement
  • Health sciences and services
  • Financial strategies
  • Communications and political advocacy

The UC President’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative Student Fellowship Program funds student-generated projects that support the UC system’s goal to produce zero-net greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. All 10 UC campuses plus the UC Office of the President, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are participating in the program.