UCSF Sustainability Stories

Shelley Wong, UCSF Communications Manager, July 2017

UC Sustainability Group Convenes to Discuss Progress to 2025 Goals

On June 2, UC San Francisco hosted the summer meeting of the Global Climate Leadership Council (GCLC), bringing together stakeholders from across the University of California (UC) and the public and private sector to discuss findings and progress toward UC’s goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.

UC President Janet Napolitano formed the GCLC advisory group in 2014 as part of UC’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI). Led by UC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Rachael Nava, the group includes members from throughout the UC system as well as outside sustainability leaders and experts, including members from the City of San Francisco and Microsoft.

Paul Jenny, UCSF’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, said in a statement, “UCSF has been a leader in connecting climate change to health. UCSF’s ongoing sustainability initiatives are broad and impact the campus at large.” According to Jenny, UCSF operational efforts have reduced building intensity by 24% and water consumption by 36%, and diverted solid waste by 80%. UCSF has also brought sustainability into its educational mission in recent years, focusing on how the climate impacts health and the healthcare system.

GCLC members gathered to hear updates from subgroups within the GCLC, with a particular focus on the Carbon Neutrality Finance and Management Task Force, who presented their report “Overcoming Barriers to Carbon Neutrality.” The report, currently in draft format, provided context and issues for decarbonization along with key recommendations in energy supplies, energy efficiency and conservation, new buildings, communication and change management, and medical center operations.

Like the GCLC, the Task Force has adopted an inclusive strategy to engage the larger university community. To understand challenges and identify potential solutions to achieve the 2025 goal, the group continues to receive guidance from over 200 stakeholders, including leadership and participation by students, faculty, and staff, as well as UC’s Council of Vice Chancellors for Administrations, Council of Vice Chancellors for Planning and Budget, and its Energy Services Unit Governing Board.

The meeting took place the day after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. In response, Napolitano issued a formal statement reaffirming the UC’s commitment to the landmark agreement and support for CA’s governor, congressional delegation and state legislators, as the UC continues to work toward its carbon neutrality goal. Napolitano stated, “We will continue to rise to this challenge together, convening individuals and institutions who are committed to scalable solutions that will bend the curve on greenhouse gas emissions for the benefit of generations to come.”

Major topics included how to manage immediate costs versus long-term cost savings; investment for biomethane; and how offsets can be used as a strategic approach. Achieving sustainability goals remains challenging, but members were optimistic about moving forward with an aligned, consensus approach. In such a vision, sustainability is consistent with programming and tied to advancing the UC mission.

The group also acknowledged that a direct policy would need to be flexible and sensitive to different UC campus organizational structures. Further dialogue, communication, and education on sustainability with an inclusive approach is planned with all campus populations. Climate Lab, a six-episode media partnership between UC and Vox featuring UCLA conservation scientist M. Sanjayan, PhD, has received widespread attention, with nearly 5 million views.

At the close of the day, Rachael Nava thanked the group and its reporting subgroups for their contributions and service and affirmed its critical mission. “Our role went way up yesterday. Our role is even more essential.”