Carbon neutrality commission releases work plan


The U-M President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality has published its work plan that includes the creation of several analysis teams to provide the commission with in-depth research and knowledge on a variety of topics as they explore the path to carbon neutrality for the university and region.

The plan outlines the approach, timeline and topic areas the commission will address in developing its recommendations to the president for how U-M’s three campuses can achieve carbon neutrality.

The plan includes analyses of some broader Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions that might be included in the university’s future carbon neutrality goal. Scope 3 emissions are those not owned or directly controlled by the university, such as those due to suppliers of services and goods to the university, and off-campus travel by members of the university community.

The university’s current goal to reduce greenhouse gases to 25 percent below 2006 levels includes:

  • Scope 1 emissions — those generated on campus by the university.
  • Scope 2 emissions — those associated with the university’s purchased electricity.

“A significant number of topics require in-depth research and analysis, which will be conducted either by highly specialized external firms, or by small internal analysis teams comprising faculty, students, and staff, in consultation with external experts and key stakeholders,” said Jennifer Haverkamp, co-chair of the commission and director of the Graham Sustainability Institute.

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“These analysis teams are designed to generate the best available inputs to our decision making, to get U-M to its goal of carbon neutrality in the quickest, most cost-effective and efficient route,” said Stephen Forrest, co-chair of the commission and professor of electrical engineering and computer science, physics, and material sciences and engineering.

The analysis teams are in addition to the several advisory panels that serve the commission by representing the interests and perspectives of the broader community of students; faculty experts; university units, including Dearborn and Flint campuses; and external partners.

Topics to be addressed by the internal analysis teams include:

  • Building standards.
  • Energy consumption.
  • Commuting.
  • University travel.
  • Food.
  • General purchasing.
  • Biosequestration and offsets.
  • Campus culture and communication.
  • External collaboration.

Analysis teams will be led by U-M faculty and include students and a small number of staff with relevant knowledge and training. Each group will be responsible for developing a report for their specific topic area that includes proposed strategies to implement, associated financial costs and metrics to be used to evaluate progress.

Interested faculty members are encouraged to submit a self-nomination or nominate a U-M colleague via the commission’s website. The commission will review nominees and select the most qualified individuals based on relevant subject matter expertise and demonstrated experience leading successful project teams. Nominations are due May 17.

The commission also will leverage external expertise to address campus infrastructure, such as:

  • Campus infrastructure master planning.
  • Campus heating and cooling infrastructure.
  • Carbon neutral building design.
  • Building energy control systems.
  • On-campus renewable energy potential.
  • Transportation fleet and infrastructure.
  • Carbon capture utilization and storage technology.

All analyses conducted by external and internal teams will be submitted to the commission for consideration and potential inclusion in the commission’s recommendations to the president.

The commission is expected to share an initial interim report this fall, a second interim report in spring 2020, and final recommendations to the president in fall 2020.

In February, President Mark Schlissel charged the 17-member commission — consisting of students, faculty, staff and external partners — with developing recommendations for U-M to achieve carbon neutrality in a manner that is environmentally sustainable, achieved in a fiscally responsible manner, and in the context of its mission of education, research, service and patient care.

Schlissel also has emphasized the importance of all members of the U-M community, including students, in contributing toward solutions by identifying opportunities, measuring progress and sharing personal responsibility for achieving the university’s goals.

The commission has begun its effort to develop a plan that defines parameters, establishes goals and timelines, and outlines approaches for U-M to achieve carbon neutrality. A key focus of the commission is to develop strategies that can be used by others in the state and region to achieve the same goal.

Since its inception, the commission has hosted several public sessions, including a meeting with Schlissel, to engage directly with the broader U-M community on the topic of climate action and to help inform the commission’s work.

The student advisory panel has been formed and is meeting regularly, including a special meeting with the president on April 10. The other advisory panels are being organized by the commission and are expected to commence activities this summer.

“The extensive input provided by the community was instrumental in helping to shape the scope and approach of the commission’s work,” Forrest said.

Other high-level priorities identified in the commission’s work plan, and which the commission has begun to address, include:

  • Defining carbon neutrality for U-M, including parameters of scope.
  • Setting an aspirational date for carbon neutrality, with clear goals and milestones along the way.
  • Identifying early actions — such as commitments and policies — that U-M could potentially implement ahead of submitting final recommendations in fall 2020.
  • Identifying potential opportunities for highly visible symbols of the university’s commitment to carbon neutrality that foster culture change across campus.
  • Continuing engagement with key constituents both within and beyond campus to inform the commission’s work.

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