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Priorities & Progress

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

Sections below were last updated on March 24, 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

  • Planned geo-exchange systems for the Leinweber Computer Science and Information Building and for the newly-announced North Campus residence hall
  • Utility master plan for North Campus underway, focusing toward decarbonizing heating and cooling infrastructure

Near-Term Priorities

  • 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

  • RFP issued in March 2022 to procure 100 percent of purchased electricity from renewable sources.
  • RFP includes considerations related to community engagement, justice and equity, and implications for land use, habitat and wildlife, and research and education opportunities.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Await proposals from renewable energy developers.
  • Complete the selection process to procure 100 percent of purchased electricity from renewable sources.

Key Objective

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

Progress to Date

  • Set of design guidelines, focused on greenhouse gas emissions reductions in U-M new construction, drafted by Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC).

Near-Term Priorities

  • Continue to refine the draft design guidelines.
  • Solicit input from auxiliary units (Athletics, Michigan Medicine, and Student Life) and all three campuses (Flint, Dearborn, and Ann Arbor).

Key Objective

  • Launch 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

  • Funded $15M in energy conservation projects for FY22, across all campuses and auxiliary units. Project costs will be repaid back into the REF. Projects include LED and HVAC upgrades.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Prepare to implement FY22 projects.
  • Collaborate across the university to design REF; to become fully operational in FY23.

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 Fall 2022.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Logistics, Transportation, and Parking (LTP) is working to decarbonize the Ann Arbor vehicle fleet, beginning with buses.
  • 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

  • Initial set of guiding principles drafted, to share with the U-M community for input.

Near-Term Priorities

  • The campus planner is engaging with unit representatives and experts to continue refining the planning principles.

Key Objectives

  • Transition natural resource investments to build on a low-carbon economy.

Progress to Date

  • $300M in green bonds issued, to be used to fund infrastructure investments that advance U-M sustainability goals.
  • Pursuing a net-zero endowment by 2050; discontinuing direct investments in companies that are the largest contributors to greenhouse gases; discontinuing investments in funds whose primary focus is oil reserves, oil extraction, or thermal coal extraction; pursuing renewable energy investments.

Indirect Impacts (Scope 3)

Key Objectives

  • 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

  • Collaboration with unit leaders to explore initial mitigation strategies for some Scope 3 emissions categories (e.g. travel).

Near-Term Priorities

  • Begin developing roadmaps for mitigating Scope 3 emissions across several categories (e.g., food, leased space, university travel).

    • A workstream focused on carbon-friendly food procurement is underway, with representation from all three campuses and auxiliary units.
    • Partnering with U-M Procurement Services to explore initial purchased goods emissions reduction strategies.
  • Investigate additional on-campus EV charging infrastructure to support community EV use, in coordination with the City of Ann Arbor.

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.
  • Outlying data gaps identified for Scope 3 emission categories.

Next Steps

  • Develop carbon accounting strategies to track and report on U-M’s Scope 3 emissions.

Culture and Communication

Key Objectives

  • Create an executive-level leadership position reporting to the president.
  • In the interim, a special advisor to the president has been appointed to steward progress on carbon neutrality work.

Progress to Date

  • Office of the President researched comparable positions at other institutions, consulted with search firms; determining next steps.

Key Objective

  • Collaborate with unit leaders to optimally implement carbon neutrality strategies university-wide.

Progress to Date

  • Established a unit leadership council, with representation from major U-M units, that will advise and facilitate carbon neutrality efforts across the university.
  • Consulted with all executive officers and all school and college deans to identify opportunities for collaboration and feedback.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Meet with university groups (e.g. OCS, Student Life Leadership Assembly, Financial Advisory Committee, Council on Global Engagement, etc.) to share information and progress.
  • Reconvene unit leadership council.
  • Continue to engage with university leaders and units on a number of carbon neutrality actions.

Key Objective

  • Develop a campus-wide strategy to improve and expand opportunities for the community to learn about and actively support carbon neutrality efforts.

Progress to Date

  • Campus life work stream established, convening 20 staff, students and faculty from across the Ann Arbor campus.
  • Workstream completed a network assessment to identify opportunities to education, engage and empower the university around carbon neutrality and climate action.
  • Planet Blue Ambassador program hired student interns over the summer to help expand the program to UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn; UM-Dearborn training posted to Canvas for community members.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Informed by the network assessment, draft a near-term campus-wide strategy to improve and expand opportunities for the U-M community to learn about and engage with carbon neutrality efforts. Recommendations and strategies will be shared with UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint.

Key Objective

  • 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.

Progress to Date

  • Collaborated with Government Relations, Student Sustainability Coalition, Ginsberg Center, and Environmental Justice faculty experts to inform future strategies for effective long-term equitable engagement.
  • Collaboration between UM-Flint and the City of Flint on creating a city environmental sustainability plan.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Creating a standardized framework to set expectations around engagement.
  • Consulting with EJ experts to best incorporate EJ principles into U-M policies and actions.
  • Meeting regularly with City of Ann Arbor sustainability staff (A2Zero).

Key Objective

  • Work with like-minded universities, nonprofits, corporates, and municipalities to advance climate action.

Progress to Date

  • U-M is a founding member of 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.

  • U-M is also a member of:

    • The University Climate Change Coalition (UC3). UC3 is a core program of Second Nature that 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.
    • The Big Ten and Friends Sustainability group, which provides a space for status reports, peer guidance, resource sharing, and collaboration among peer institutions.
    • The Ivy Plus Sustainability Listening Post Consortium, which includes sustainability representatives from Ivy League and peer universities committed to the ongoing exchange of campus sustainability solutions.
    • The A2Zero Collaborators group.

Key Objective

  • Develop an interactive and educational progress tracking dashboard to engage U-M and external communities.

Progress to Date

  • Preliminary dashboard now available on the main carbon neutrality web page.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Solicit feedback and continue to refine and expand the dashboard as efforts progress and additional data becomes available.

Academics

Key Objective

  • Engage with academic leaders across all schools and colleges toward integrating sustainability and carbon neutrality into core curricula.

Progress to Date

  • U-M continues to explore sustainability curricula opportunities with university leadership and academic leaders.

Key Objective

  • Make significant investments in carbon neutrality research and deployment, building on multidisciplinary initiatives.

Progress to Date

  • The Carbon Neutrality Acceleration Program (CNAP) awarded $1.75M to seven multidisciplinary projects, each with significant potential to help reduce net carbon emissions.
  • The Office of the Vice President for Research launched its Bold Challenges initiative in 2021.