The University of California (UC), as a part of meeting our 2025 carbon neutrality goal, is using our exceptional research capacity to develop a portfolio of high-quality carbon offset projects aligned with UC’s mission of research, education, and public service. Our offset program has two tracks: developing our own UC-initiated offset projects, and performing research and due diligence on offsets on the voluntary market. Ultimately, by releasing guidance materials and publishing our research we hope to advance understanding of how institutions can identify and support high-quality offset projects aligned with their mission.

UC’s offset project criteria

UC’s Carbon Abatement Technical Committee, with members from each of the campuses, LBNL, and UC Office of the President, in consultation with faculty, students, and staff from across all campuses, compiled the following priorities for UC’s offset project portfolio.

These priorities are guiding the development of UC’s portfolio of UC-initiated and voluntary market offset projects: 

Cost Effectiveness

As a steward of public resources, the cost-effectiveness of all greenhouse gas reduction strategies is an important consideration for the University of California.

High quality

  • Additional - credits represent reductions beyond what would have happened without the offset program or UC’s carbon neutrality initiative goal.
  • Real - credits do not exceed the project’s, or the protocol’s, actual effect on emissions using conservative estimation methods.
  • Based on the latest science - all projects and emissions reduction calculations undergo peer review by UC-affiliated researchers.
  • Permanent - for carbon sequestration projects, the credited carbon must be held for at least 40 years.

Aligned with UC’s mission

  • Research - all UC-initiated offsets forward UC research, and some voluntary market offsets can provide research opportunities.
  • Education - priority is given to projects that provide students with applied educational opportunities.
  • Public service - all projects should demonstrate or advance a scalable climate solution aligned with a path towards deep decarbonization; priority is given to projects with co-benefits such as health, social justice, and benefits to the UC community and communities surrounding the campuses, and projects with the potential for climate benefits well beyond the credited reductions.

Draft UC Offset Procurment Policy

The UC system is in the process of considering draft offset procurement policy. Here is a background briefing on the purpose of the policy. 

Why offsets?

UC launched its Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI) with an aim of emitting net zero greenhouse gases from its buildings, operations, and vehicle fleet by 2025. To meet this commitment, the campuses are investing in 100% carbon-free electricity by 2025, building efficiency improvements, building electrification, and biogas procurement. UC reduced its emissions by around 36% per student from 2010 to 2018 and expects our continued efforts to reduce direct emissions most of the way to carbon neutrality by 2025. In addition, UC expects to procure offsets as the final step to reach net zero emissions.