UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, December 2015

UC Brings Climate Solutions Report to Paris

President Through the University of California (UC) Carbon Neutrality Initiative, UC is committed to making all buildings and vehicles associated with its 10 campuses carbon neutral by 2025. At the UC Carbon and Climate Neutrality Summit at UC San Diego last month, UC went deeper with its commitment to fight climate change, releasing, Bending the Curve, a new plan that outlines 10 solutions that can be scaled to help slow global warming.  A key conclusion—Climate action requires lowering the carbon footprint of the wealthiest 1 billion (who contribute roughly 60 percent of the climate pollution), while promoting clean energy for the poorest 3 billion, who will suffer the worst consequences of climate disruption.

“Addressing these challenges, and reducing our carbon footprint, is a moral imperative,” University president Janet Napolitano said.  She vowed to turn the system’s 10 campuses into a living laboratory for solutions that can be scaled up to state, national and global levels.  The report will be presented at the upcoming global climate summit (COP21) taking place in Paris this month, extending its reach beyond California.

Gail Lee, UCSF’s Sustainability Director, was one of many UC faculty, students and staff that attended the two-day summit.  “The Summit was inspiring and positive, giving real hope that UC can lead the nation and the world towards solving the climate crisis‎ with these 10 recommendations,” said Lee.  Not only has UC released this important report, today it announced that UC and its Office of the Chief Investment Officer, which manages the university’s endowment and pension funds, is the sole institutional investor among the 28 coalition members from 10 countries that joined the Breakthrough Energy Coalition.  Lee added, “It is very exciting that UC has joined the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, an influential group of investors led by Bill Gates committed to investing in technology that can help solve the urgent energy and climate challenges facing the planet.”

The coalition is a counterpart to Mission Innovation, an initiative of 19 countries committed to dramatically increasing research and development funding for early-stage clean energy innovation over the next five years.  Both initiatives were announced today at the COP21.  “We can’t ask for a better partner than the University of California Office of the President and the Office of the Chief Investment Officer to help accomplish the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s ambitious goal,” Gates said. “The UC system – with its world leading campuses and labs – produces the kinds of groundbreaking technologies that will help define a global energy future that is cheaper, more reliable, and does not contribute to climate change.”

In addition to committing to the coalition’s statement of investment principles, UC and its Office of the Chief Investment Officer will:

  • Serve in a leadership role with other endowments and pension funds to explore how they can productively participate in these early-stage investments;
  • Invest alongside other members of the coalition in vehicles created to facilitate the statement of principles, which includes the imperatives to invest early, broadly, boldly, wisely and together;
  • Work with the coalition and the investment vehicles it creates to share information and source deals that emerge from UC’s 10 campuses and three national energy labs; and
  • Collaborate with public institutions in other Mission Innovation countries to share approaches to developing research for private sector investment.

Top 10 Climate Solutions

CoverBending the Curve presents 10 solutions, all of which the plan says can be implemented immediately and expanded rapidly — to clean our air and keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius and, at the same time, provide breathing room for the world to fully transition to carbon neutrality in the coming decades. The plan says global warming could be slowed dramatically by reducing greenhouse gases such as methane emissions by 50 percent and black carbon by 90 percent over the next 15 years. The wealthiest need to cut back dramatically, while green energy needs to be made more available to the poorest 3 billion people, the plan says.  Specifically, it introduces 10 “pragmatic, scalable” solutions.  Each is briefly summarized below.  Refer to the Executive Summary for more details.

1.  Target Short-Lived Climate Pollutants:  Bend the warming curve immediately by reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) and sustainably by replacing current fossil-fueled energy systems with carbon neutral technologies.

2.  Foster a Culture of Climate Action:  Foster a global culture of climate action through coordinated public communication and education at local to global scales.

3.  Deepen Global Collaboration and Dialogue—Religious and Community Leaders are Vital Allies:  Deepen the global culture of climate collaboration by designing venues where stakeholders, community and religious leaders converge around concrete problems with researchers and scholars from all academic disciplines, with the overall goal of initiating collaborative actions to mitigate climate disruption.

4.  Immediately Scale-up Renewable Technologies:  Scale up subnational models of governance and collaboration around the world to embolden and energize national and international action. Use the California examples to help other state- and city-level jurisdictions become living laboratories for renewable technologies and for regulatory as well as market-based solutions. Build cross-sector collaborations among urban stakeholders, because creating sustainable cities is a key to global change.

5.  Adopt Market-based Instruments:  Adopt market-based instruments to create efficient incentives for businesses and individuals to reduce CO2 emissions. These can include cap and trade or carbon pricing and should employ mechanisms to contain costs.

6.  Include Targeted Direct Regulatory Measures:  Narrowly target direct regulatory measures — such as rebates and efficiency and renewable energy portfolio standards — at high emissions sectors not covered by market-based policies. Create powerful incentives that continually reward improvements to bring down emissions while building political coalitions in favor of climate policy. Terminate subsidies that encourage emission-intensive activities. Expand subsidies that encourage innovation in low emission technologies.

7.  Promote Clean Technologies:  Promote immediate widespread use of mature technologies such as photovoltaics, wind turbines, battery and hydrogen fuel cell electric light duty vehicles, and more efficient end-use devices, especially in lighting, air conditioning, appliances and industrial processes.

8.  Accelerate Electrification:  Aggressively support and promote innovations to accelerate the complete electrification of energy and transportation systems and improve building efficiency.  Support development of lower-cost energy storage for applications in transportation, resilient large-scale and distributed micro-scale grids, and residential uses. Support development of new energy storage technologies, including batteries, super-capacitors, compressed air, hydrogen and thermal storage, as well as advances in heat pumps, efficient lighting, fuel cells, smart buildings and systems integration. These innovative technologies are essential for meeting the target of 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

9.  Reduce Methane Emissions by 50 Percent and Black Carbon Emissions by 90 Percent:  Immediately make maximum use of available technologies combined with regulations to reduce methane emissions by 50 percent and black carbon emissions by 90 percent.  Phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 2030 by amending the Montreal Protocol. In addition to the climate and health benefits described under solution #1, this solution will provide access to clean cooking for the poorest 3 billion people who spend hours each day collecting solid biomass fuels and burning them indoors for cooking.

10.  Restore Natural Ecosystems and Improve Natural Carbon Sinks:  Regenerate damaged natural ecosystems and restore soil organic carbon to improve natural sinks for carbon (through afforestation, reducing deforestation and restoration of soil organic carbon).  Implement food waste reduction programs and energy recovery systems to maximize utilization of food produced and recover energy from food that is not consumed.

To view any of the sessions from the UC Climate Summit, please go to this link.

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Photo Credit: UCSD Microgrid

Story By Green Impact