The University of Michigan’s Board of Regents will share “concrete next steps” next month aimed at investing the university’s endowment funds “in a way that contributes to the essential transition to a low carbon economy.”
Regent Mark J. Bernstein made the announcement during the board’s Feb. 18 meeting, nearly one year after the governing body halted new direct fossil fuel investments. Regents meet next on March 25.
“The climate crisis presents substantial energy transition- and climate change-related financial risk,” Bernstein said. “We endeavor to effectively address that risk while continuing to support the university’s missions of teaching, research and service through university investments.”
Regents have been studying the university’s investment policy since announcing a pause on new direct fossil fuel investments Feb. 20, 2020. That has included meeting with representatives from peer universities and experts in sustainable investing, as well as listening and learning from activists and advocates within the U-M community and beyond, said Bernstein, adding that dozens of students, staff, faculty and community members have spoken on the issue at board meetings.
“We deeply thank them all for their advocacy, which has been critical toward our understanding of the importance and urgency of this topic,” he said.
Bernstein’s assurance comes as the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality finalizes a set of recommendations on strategies for U-M to achieve net-zero emissions.
A draft report released in December outlined a number of actions that would help the university achieve, among other goals, carbon neutrality for emissions resulting from on-campus sources across all three campuses by 2025.
The commission hosted a number of virtual events and an online public comment portal in January for students, staff, faculty and community members from across the university and surrounding communities to weigh in on the draft recommendations.
Meanwhile, the Graham Sustainability Institute’s Carbon Neutrality Acceleration Program recently awarded $1.75 million in funding to seven 1- to 2-year projects involving U-M faculty and researchers. The selected projects address energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration, public opinion, behavior and equity.
Last month, the Office of Campus Sustainability shared its annual sustainability goal update which showed that the university has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent from a 2006 baseline. Campus officials said U-M will meet its goal of reducing emissions by 25 percent by 2025 early.