UC Pilot Offsets

UC released a Request for Ideas (RFI) for UC-initiated offset projects in March 2019.  

In response, 80 teams submitted project ideas. These ideas came from faculty, staff, researchers, graduate students, and undergraduates across all ten campuses, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), the Natural Reserve System, and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. The projects spanned a wide range of types, sectors, sizes, and readiness to implement. UC’s involvement in these projects took many forms: from fully conceiving, constructing, and managing the project, to launching a new organization, to collaborating with another organization.

Through a multi-stage evaluation process we chose twelve projects for awards. The goal of these awards is to support the project teams in bringing each project idea closer to implementation as a full-scale UC-initiated offset project that will result in emissions reductions or carbon sequestration that UC campuses can use towards their carbon neutrality commitments. Through these awards, we are learning about the process of implementing our own carbon offset projects, including verifying the resulting emissions reductions through an offset registry or through Offset Network’s peer review process. 

The ideas received provide a glimpse into the breadth of UC climate change mitigation research. While the twelve projects selected for CNI awards each were seen as having a potential for nearterm quantifiable emissions reductions based on existing offset methodologies or methodologies currently under development, these early offset experiments, if successful, may pave the way for a wider set of UC-initiated offset project types in the future. Here we list the range of types of ideas we received: 

  • Sustainable building materials
  • Behaviour change in household efficiency, diet, and transportation
  • Electric vehicle programs
  • New renewable energy technologies
  • Renewable energy in communities neighboring UC campuses
  • Reductions in company business, lighting, and commuting emissions
  • Landfill gas capture
  • Reproductive health access
  • Compost production
  • Compost, biochar, and rock amendments to lands
  • Water efficiency, reuse, and groundwater recharge
  • Wetland restoration
  • Tree planting and forest restoration
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Bioenergy
  • CO2 capture
  • Improved cookstoves
  • Solar lighting 

Project evaluation process

Through consultation with faculty, students, and staff from all ten UC campuses and Berkeley Lab (as the “consumers” of the generated offsets), we identified these criteria as our priorities for evaluating UC-initiated offset projects. In addition to these criteria, we also sought diversity across the campuses and project types. Projects went through four rounds of review including peer review.

Next steps

Moving forward, as we gain experience from the award projects, campus decision-makers may choose to enter into offset procurement arrangements with teams connected to UC implementing climate mitigation projects. We anticipate engaging in discussions over the next few years with UC faculty, researchers, students, and staff, including the recipients of the awards, other teams that submitted responses to the RFI, and other members of the UC community, about potential projects. We are still figuring out what form those discussions will take. As your ideas evolve, please feel free to keep us updated by emailing bhaya@berkeley.edu.