Carbon commission leaders answer questions about draft report


The leaders of the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality gave an overview of their work and answered questions from the community Jan. 21 as they finalize a proposed plan to set the University of Michigan on the path to net-zero emissions.

“It’s extraordinarily important that we imbed a culture of carbon neutrality in the long-term into the university,” said Stephen Forrest, commission co-chair and professor of electrical engineering and computer science, material sciences and engineering and physics.

The commission released a report in December with draft recommendations for how U-M can reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the Flint, Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses, including Michigan Medicine.

During the livestreamed session, Forrest and Jennifer Haverkamp, commission co-chair and Graham Family Director of the Graham Sustainability Institute, took questions from viewers on topics ranging from sustainable research to how the surge in e-commuting brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic will impact carbon neutrality efforts.   

One question was about how the university’s carbon neutrality efforts will align with its work around diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The two issues are really intertwined and interdependent, or we won’t be successful,” Haverkamp said.

Forrest said that along with bold universitywide carbon neutrality efforts, “it’s important for everyone to take actions in their own lives to limit carbon neutrality.”

Students, staff, faculty and community members are invited to submit feedback and ideas about the commission’s draft report through Jan. 26. The commission is expected to submit its final recommendations to President Mark Schlissel in late February.

Some of the proposed recommendations include:

  • Converting U-M’s existing heating and cooling infrastructure to an electrified system centered on geothermal heat exchange with heat recovery chiller technology.
  • Purchasing power from 100 percent renewable sources.
  • Transitioning U-M’s entire vehicle fleet to fully electric power.
  • Creating a Revolving Energy Fund to support energy conservation and carbon reduction projects across the university, and establishing a universitywide internal carbon pricing system.
  • Incentivizing commuter electric-vehicle use by increasing the number of electric-vehicle charging stations across all three campuses.
  • Reforming U-M’s parking policy and investing in ride sharing, telecommuting and cycling infrastructure to reduce regular personal vehicle use.
  • Investing in and expanding carbon neutrality-focused research, “living-learning labs,” and sustainability curriculum and literacy options across all three U-M campuses.


  1. Joseph Valle
    on January 22, 2021 at 8:46 pm

    As an engineer who works on sustainability technologies, this report is damaging to the credibility of this institution. After 2 years of work, this report contains effectively nothing on environmental justice and only the most basic analysis of on-site electricity generation. With all of the expertise within this institution that could have been leveraged toward articulating a transformative vision for a carbon neutral university with rich and in depth analysis providing tangible steps to actualizing that vision, it is an absolute embarrassment that this report is all this commission was able to muster. With this report, it is very clear that this commission was set up by President Schlissel to fail from the beginning by removing the ability to adequately address scope 3 issues by barring the commission from considering the massive impacts of our endowment investments.

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