As the University of Michigan advances its commitments to climate action and universitywide carbon neutrality, it joins more than 25 universities, nonprofit organizations, corporations and local governments in founding the Midwest Climate Collaborative.
“Climate action is most impactful when we work together,” President Mary Sue Coleman said. “As we pursue our carbon neutrality goals at U-M, we need to draw on the expertise and passion of our community and engage with external partners like the Midwest Climate Collaborative. Together we will produce solutions for the good of tomorrow.”
The collaborative, which was unveiled recently at a virtual summit, aims to develop a cohesive Midwest response to the climate crisis. An initial priority for the group is to build a Midwest climate research agenda — synthesizing climate knowledge, mitigation and adaptation strategies, and in doing so build a network of climate researchers. The group is also developing an asset map of regional climate work.
“The Midwest Climate Collaborative will create exciting opportunities for regional collaboration and agenda-setting on climate, convening researchers, educators and students toward solutions,” said Jennifer Haverkamp, director of U-M’s Graham Sustainability Institute, and who was featured in a panel during the summit and represented U-M on the group’s planning committee.
“U-M made a series of commitments last year toward climate action, but none of us can tackle the climate crisis alone. That’s why we’re looking forward to sharing scalable and transferable strategies with our regional partners and likewise, learning about promising approaches that are being undertaken throughout the region.”
The collaborative will offer students from member institutions the opportunity to network and engage with peers across the Midwest around shared climate interests and issues of concern at annual conferences. The first of these will take place March 4.
In addition, the group is convening an “Educator Community of Practice” for sustainability-focused faculty interested in sharing effective practices toward interdisciplinary and inclusive education “to prepare the next generation of climate leaders.”
Other universities participating include Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, and fellow Big Ten schools Indiana University, University of Illinois, Northwestern University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Ohio State University.
Gina McCarthy, the White House’s national climate adviser, and Aimee Witteman, deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs for the U.S. Department of Energy, delivered introductory remarks at the event launching the consortium.
In addition to the Midwest Climate Collaborative, U-M remains engaged in a number of partnerships around climate issues, including the University Climate Change Coalition and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. U-M is currently participating in a UC3 pilot project focused on providing cross-sector resources to help communities realize their climate action goals.
Climate Action Updates and Progress
Broader U-M carbon neutrality goals, defined in May 2021, remain major university priorities and are progressing on track.
Last month, U-M announced $5 million in energy conservation measures across the university, to be financed by a revolving energy fund. The Office of Campus Sustainability also released its fiscal year 2021 fact sheet, detailing the Ann Arbor campus’s progress toward sustainability goals pertaining to greenhouse gas reduction, fuel efficiency, waste reduction, sustainable food purchases, Huron River protection, and broader engagement around environmentalism.
In addition, geothermal heating and power systems are planned for the Leinweber Computer Science and Information Building and are expected to be presented for consideration by the Board of Regents at its Feb. 17 meeting.
While an interactive carbon neutrality dashboard is in development, U-M community members can learn more about university climate action priorities and associated actions and progress at Planet Blue Campus.