U-M joins Better Climate Challenge in effort to cut emissions

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The University of Michigan recently joined the Better Climate Challenge, a program administered by the U.S. Department of Energy in which participating organizations set ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and share resources on their respective climate action efforts.

Affiliated institutions each commit to reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions — which result from direct sources and purchased electricity, respectively — by at least 50% within 10 years.

U-M expects to exceed this target and cut its total Scope 1 and 2 emissions in half by 2025, relative to a 2019 baseline.

“Sustained collaboration is at the heart of our carbon neutrality work, which is why we are joining like-minded institutions in the Better Climate Challenge,” President Mary Sue Coleman said. “The climate crisis affects us all. It’s crucial that we engage in fruitful partnerships so that we can both learn from others and help lead the way toward a more sustainable future.”

More than 100 universities, governmental bodies, corporations and nonprofit organizations currently participate in the Better Climate Challenge. Members include the University of Chicago, University of Virginia, city of San Diego, state of Maryland, General Motors and Ford Motor Co.

For participating organizations, the Department of Energy offers technical assistance, peer-to-peer learning opportunities, and knowledge sharing of applied and replicable solutions.

“Cross-sector climate action is essential toward meaningful climate action,” said Drew Horning, special adviser to the president for carbon neutrality strategy. “While we’re proud of the progress we’ve made thus far — in areas like renewable power purchasing and energy conservation financing — we’re making ambitious climate commitments that require ambitious engagement.”

In addition to the Better Climate Challenge, U-M is part of the University Climate Change Coalition and was a founding member of the cross-sector Midwest Climate Collaborative, joining more than 25 universities, local governments, nonprofits and corporations in the region. U-M also continues to collaborate with the city of Ann Arbor and regional stakeholders toward effective community climate action.

Recently announced actions toward carbon neutrality include:

  • Plans to procure 100% renewable purchased electricity by 2025.
  • Plans for geothermal exchange heating and cooling systems to be implemented in a phased approach across the university. A North Campus master planning process is underway, with an objective to decarbonize the campus’s heating and cooling infrastructure.
  • $15 million in LED lighting and energy conservation measures across the university, to be financed via a shared revolving energy fund.
  • $300 million in “green bonds” for capital projects aligned with U-M sustainability goals.
  • The launch of a public dashboard tracking U-M emissions reduction efforts.
  • The purchase of four electric buses for the Ann Arbor campus as an initial step toward decarbonizing the U-M vehicle fleet.
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