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Priorities & Progress

Learn more about key objectives and ongoing efforts toward U-M carbon neutrality and climate action goals.

NEW: Read the Climate Action at the University of Michigan report for FY22.

Sections below were last updated on December 15, 2022. For information on past U-M greenhouse gas emission levels and expected future trajectories toward net-zero emissions, visit the U-M Emissions Reduction Dashboard.

Energy and Infrastructure

Key Objective

  • Selectively install geothermal exchange heating and cooling systems in conjunction with new construction projects.

Progress to Date

Near-Term Priorities

  • Develop the North Campus utility master plan focused on decarbonizing heating and cooling infrastructure.
  • Design all new building and renovation projects to be compatible with renewable energy-driven heating and cooling systems.
  • Explore additional geo-exchange opportunities.

Key Objective

  • Secure all purchased electricity from renewables.

Progress to Date

  • Issued an RFP in March 2022 to procure 100 percent of purchased electricity from renewables, with considerations related to community engagement, justice and equity, and implications for land use, habitat and wildlife, and research and education opportunities.
  • Received and reviewed proposals.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Procure 100% of purchased electricity from renewable sources.
  • Issue an RFP to install up to 25MW of solar photovoltaics on U-M campuses.

Key Objective

  • Develop new standards for building construction and renovation that reduce life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency.

Progress to Date

  • U-M Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) implemented new guidelines focused on greenhouse gas emissions reductions in new construction, with input from auxiliary units (Athletics, Michigan Medicine, and Student Life) and all three campuses. These maximum emissions targets—U-M's first—cover 14 building types to and all new construction and major renovation projects over $10 million.
  • Convened a U-M Climate Action Webinar, featuring faculty and staff experts, centered around university buildings and their role in carbon neutrality efforts.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Construct a new carbon-neutral residential complex targeting LEED platinum certification.
  • Refine design guidelines continually to reflect best-in-class approaches.

Key Objective

  • Implement a revolving energy fund (REF) for energy conservation measures (ECMs), beginning with $25 million over five years. Learn more about the REF and energy conservation efforts.

Progress to Date

  • Established a $25 million REF to support all units across the university.
  • Identified $15M in energy conservation projects for funding in FY22, across all campuses and auxiliary units—to cover approximately 100 buildings and 10 million square feet of building space. Project costs will fund the REF as annual savings are realized. Projects include LED and HVAC upgrades.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Continue implementing projects identified and funded in FY22.
  • Collaborate across the university to continue refining REF processes.

Key Objective

  • Decarbonize university buses as a first step toward decarbonizing U-M’s entire vehicle fleet.

Progress to Date

  • Four electric buses purchased for the Ann Arbor campus; to be delivered during the 2022-23 academic year. (Note: though buses were originally scheduled to be completed by November 2022, they are now scheduled to arrive on campus in spring 2023 due to global supply chain issues.)
  • Thirty battery electric vehicles purchased for the Ann Arbor campus for FY24 delivery.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Continue efforts to replace existing U-M vehicles with battery-electric vehicles.
  • UM-Flint meeting with external vendors, considering pilot program toward electrifying its vehicle fleet.

Key Objective

  • Initiate a renewed master planning process that includes carbon neutrality as a central component.

Progress to Date

  • Engaged the campus community to develop a set of draft core value statements to guide the upcoming master planning process.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Embark on a universitywide strategic visioning process in FY23 to build on critical work already underway.

Key Objectives

  • Secure funding required to transition to a carbon-neutral campus.
  • Transition natural resource investments toward enabling a low-carbon economy.

Progress to Date

  • $300M in green bonds issued to fund infrastructure investments that advance U-M sustainability goals.
  • Discontinued direct investments in companies that are the largest contributors to greenhouse gases; discontinued investments in funds whose primary focus is oil reserves, oil extraction, or thermal coal extraction.
  • Avoided emissions from U-M investments in 2023 are on track to exceed the total amount of greenhouse gases produced by the Ann Arbor campus.
  • The endowment is on track to reduce portfolio emissions by more than half by 2030.
  • Invested $420 million in sustainable energy over the past two years.
  • Transitioned public equities portfolio to an ex-fossil fuels index that excludes companies named on the Carbon Underground 200, a list of top coal, oil and gas companies.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Continue investing in campus infrastructure and investments that decrease carbon emissions.
  • Pursue a net-zero endowment by 2050.

Indirect Impacts (Scope 3)

Key Objective

  • Develop viable strategies to mitigate Scope 3 emissions across multiple categories, including university-sponsored travel, commuting, purchased goods and services, food procurement, and investments.

Progress to Date

  • Announced a partnership with Delta Airlines to spur widespread adoption, research and transparency around sustainable aviation fuel.
  • A workstream, with representation from all three campuses and auxiliary units, developed initial recommendations toward low-carbon food procurement.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Advance plans to build a carbon-neutral transit system that connects Ann Arbor campuses.
  • Partner with U-M Procurement Services to explore emissions reduction strategies associated with purchased goods.
  • Install additional campus EV charging infrastructure to support community EV use, in coordination with the City of Ann Arbor.
  • Develop preliminary roadmaps for mitigating Scope 3 emissions across several categories.

Key Objective

  • Develop accounting systems to accurately estimate and track Scope 3 emission categories.

Progress to Date

  • Assessed preliminary confidence levels around current Scope 3 estimates.
  • Identified outlying data gaps for Scope 3 emission categories.

Next Steps

  • Refine carbon accounting strategies to better track and report on U-M Scope 3 emissions.

Culture and Communication

Key Objective

  • Create an executive-level leadership position reporting to the president.

Progress to Date

  • Special advisor to the president and interim assistant vice president appointed and directing universitywide carbon neutrality and sustainability work.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Hire an associate vice president for campus sustainability.
  • Evolve universitywide sustainability leadership structures for academic initiatives.

Key Objectives

  • Collaborate with unit leaders to optimally implement carbon neutrality strategies universitywide.
  • Develop a campus-wide strategy to improve and expand opportunities for the community to learn about and actively support carbon neutrality efforts.
  • Engage at U-M and with surrounding communities to best address relevant equity and justice issues.

Progress to Date

  • Established a unit leadership council, with representation from major U-M units, which advises and facilitates carbon neutrality efforts across the university; engaged all executive officers and all school and college deans to identify opportunities for collaboration and feedback.
  • Campus life workstream convened 20 staff, students and faculty from across the Ann Arbor campus to complete a network assessment identifying opportunities to educate, engage and empower the university around carbon neutrality and climate action.
  • Planet Blue Ambassador program expanded to UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn; training modules posted to Canvas for community members.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Continue to engage university leaders and their units on a range of carbon neutrality actions.
  • Informed by the network assessment, begin implementing a campus-wide strategy to improve and expand opportunities for the U-M community to engage with carbon neutrality efforts.
  • Share strategies with UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint to assess what can be transferable.

Key Objectives

  • Engage at U-M and with surrounding communities to best address equity and justice issues as they pertain to the university’s carbon neutrality efforts.
  • Work with like-minded universities, nonprofits, corporates, and municipalities to advance climate action.

Progress to Date

  • Co-founded the Midwest Climate Collaborative, which aims to facilitate the development of a coherent Midwestern response to the climate crisis through acceleration of climate action, knowledge and leader development led by a cross-sector collaboration of key organizations throughout the Midwest.
  • Joined the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Climate Challenge, in which participating organizations set ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and share resources on their respective climate action efforts.
  • Joined the U.S. EPA Green Power Partnership, which encourages organizations to use green power voluntarily to protect human health and the environment.
  • Participated in preliminary discussions with public-sector organizations in Washtenaw County regarding the establishment of a Washtenaw Climate and Sustainability Colllaborative.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Consult with experts to best incorporate environmental justice principles into U-M policies and actions.
  • Meet regularly with City of Ann Arbor sustainability staff (A2Zero).
  • Assume the leadership role for the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), which connects 23 of the world's leading research universities and university systems committed to accelerating climate action on campus, in communities, and at a global scale.
  • Continue participating in a wide range of collaborative networks, including the Big Ten and Friends Sustainability group and The Ivy Plus Sustainability Listening Post Consortium.

Key Objective

  • Publish a website and interactive progress tracking dashboard to engage U-M and external communities.

Progress to Date

  • Launched carbon neutrality website and initial emissions reduction dashboard.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Refine and expand the dashboard as efforts progress and additional data becomes available.
  • Continue to update progress and priorities to reflect new developments.

Academics

Key Objectives

  • Engage with academic leaders across all schools and colleges toward integrating sustainability and carbon neutrality into core curricula.
  • Make significant investments in carbon neutrality research and deployment, building on multidisciplinary initiatives.

Progress to Date

  • The Graham Institute's Carbon Neutrality Acceleration Program (CNAP) awarded $2.1 million to fourteen multidisciplinary projects with significant potential to help reduce net carbon emissions.
  • The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) launched its Bold Challenges initiative in 2021, which includes a significant emphasis on sustainability and carbon neutrality research.
  • Michigan Engineering and OVPR launched a new Institute for Energy Solutions that aims to accelerate an equitable transition to a more sustainable energy future.
  • Michigan Engineering, OVPR, and the School for Environment and Sustainability launched MI Hydrogen, a new initiative to provide the leading research necessary to accelerate the use of hydrogen beyond current industrial limits.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Explore additional sustainability curricula opportunities with university leadership and academic leaders.
  • Continue to identify and support critical research that addresses the climate crisis.