In the past year, the University of Michigan announced plans to pursue extensive on-campus solar energy projects, codified new maximum greenhouse gas emission standards for construction and renovation, and welcomed Vice President Kamala Harris to campus for a discussion on climate change.
These developments, among others, are chronicled in the second annual Climate Action at the University of Michigan report, which covers work toward carbon neutrality and sustainability during the 2023 fiscal year.
“I’ve been so pleased to see firsthand how this university is making ambitious, multifaceted progress — advancing climate action through innovative operations, community partnerships, applied research, campus involvement and sustainable investments,” President Santa J. Ono said in the report’s introduction.
“This report describes the breadth of our engagement on these topics and our commitment to achieving carbon neutrality and fostering a shared culture of sustainability.”
Priorities and progress
The report includes high-level statistics related to sustainable operations and campus involvement, and overviews of various initiatives and next steps.
At the conclusion of the 2023 fiscal year, U-M noted a zero percent year-over-year change in total quantified emissions. Sustainability staff expect Scope 2 emissions, which derive from purchased electricity, to decrease markedly after the university finalizes an agreement to procure 100% of purchased electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
Since 2010, the university has reduced its total greenhouse gas emissions by 28%, even as total building area has increased by 14%. U-M is on pace to reduce its total quantified emissions by 50% by 2025, exceeding Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidance to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030.
U-M’s carbon neutrality commitments include:
- Reducing Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions from purchased electricity to net zero by 2025.
- Eliminating Scope 1 direct campus emissions by 2040.
- Establishing goals for a wide range of Scope 3 indirect emission sources by 2025.
- Fostering a universitywide culture of sustainability, with justice as a core principle.
Actions over the past year in support of these goals include:
- Efforts to implement geoexchange heating and cooling installations for the Leinweber Computer Science and Information Building on North Campus as well as for the Ginsberg Center and the dining hall of the recently announced Central Campus residential complex. Each of these geoexchange construction projects are either currently underway or nearing completion.
- Plans to build 25 megawatts of onsite solar installations across the university — estimated to equal the power consumed by approximately 3,000 homes annually — across the Dearborn, Flint and Ann Arbor campuses. The university and the city of Ann Arbor are collaborating in this effort and have cross-promoted opportunities.
- The adoption of U-M’s first maximum-emissions targets, which cover all new construction and major renovation projects costing more than $10 million, across 14 building types.
- The arrival of four electric buses for the Ann Arbor campus as a step toward decarbonizing the university vehicle fleet. A duplicate order is scheduled to arrive in June 2024.
- The launch of public tracking tools, including version 2.0 of the U-M emissions-reduction dashboard and a new, parallel dashboard that covers Ann Arbor campus metrics related to energy use, emissions, transportation, waste, and land and water use.
The report also covers progress in sustainable investing, institutional partnerships, campus engagement and leadership structures.
Student organizations continue to spur U-M sustainability progress, having published a series of annual reports recently. In April, Student Sustainability Coalition leaders were invited to commemorate Earth Day with Vice President Harris at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
Various university units also have hired sustainability-specific personnel, including Student Life Sustainability, which expanded its staff, as well as LSA, which hired a new carbon neutrality program manager.
As carbon neutrality efforts move forward, U-M will continue to share news, milestones, data and background materials for public awareness and feedback on the Planet Blue website.