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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 September 23, 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, the newly-announced North Campus residence hall, and the new Ginsburg Center building planned for Central Campus
  • Issued an RFP to develop a utility master plan for North Campus, focused on decarbonizing heating and cooling infrastructure

Near-Term Priorities

  • Review proposals and select an external provider to conduct the North Campus utility master plan.
  • 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 renewables, including considerations related to community engagement, justice and equity, and implications for land use, habitat and wildlife, and research and education opportunities.
  • Proposals received and under review.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Complete the selection process to procure 100 percent of purchased electricity from renewable sources.
  • Develop a targeted, near-term strategy to scale up solar installations 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

  • Design guidelines focused on greenhouse gas emissions reductions in U-M new construction, developed by Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) with input from auxiliary units (Athletics, Michigan Medicine, and Student Life) and all three campuses (Flint, Dearborn, and Ann Arbor), are being used for new construction projects.
  • A working group developed U-M’s first maximum emissions targets for 14 building types to cover all new construction and major renovation projects over $10 million. Though new standards await formal approval, U-M is applying them to active projects.
  • Held 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

  • Continue to evaluate design guidelines.

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

  • Funded $15M in energy conservation projects for FY22, across all campuses and auxiliary units—to cover approximately 100 buildings and 10 million square feet of building space. Project costs will be repaid back into the REF. Projects include LED and HVAC upgrades.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Begin implementing FY22 projects.
  • Collaborate across the university to refine REF; for full implementation during 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 during the 2022-23 academic year.
  • Thirty battery electric vehicles purchased for the Ann Arbor campus; to be delivered during FY2024.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Begin to replace vehicles with battery-electric vehicles as part of a plan to  fully decarbonize the Ann Arbor vehicle fleet.
  • 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

  • Engage an expert external consultancy to continue community engagement and seek input on draft core values before launching a large-scale campus planning effort.

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 be used to fund infrastructure investments that advance U-M sustainability goals.
  • Pursuing a net-zero endowment by 2050
  • 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.
  • Pursued investments in renewable energy development and production; exploring several projects designed to advance carbon sequestration and mitigation.

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

  • Collaboration with unit leaders to explore initial mitigation strategies for some Scope 3 emissions categories (e.g. university-sponsored travel).
  • A workstream, with representation from all three campuses and auxiliary units, developed initial recommendations toward low-carbon food procurement.
  • Exploring a partnership to reduce emissions resulting from university-sponsored air travel to help spur the improvement and widespread adoption of sustainable aviation fuel.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Develop preliminary roadmaps for mitigating Scope 3 emissions across several categories.
  • Partner with U-M Procurement Services to explore initial purchased goods emissions reduction strategies.
  • Install 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.
  • Identified outlying data gaps 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 Objective

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

Progress to Date

  • Special advisor to the president appointed and directing universitywide carbon neutrality work.
  • Office of the President researched sustainability leadership positions at other institutions, consulted with search firms; determining next steps.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Elevate sustainability within U-M leadership.

Key Objective

  • Collaborate with unit leaders to optimally implement carbon neutrality strategies universitywide.

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.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Continue to engage university leaders and their units on a range 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 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 began expanding to UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn; training modules posted to Canvas for community members.
  • Student Sustainability Coalition awarded funds to support student-led projects and connected student organizations with administrators working towards common goals.
  • Excellence in Sustainability Honors Cord Program granted locally-made cords to 281 graduating students in Spring 2022.

Near-Term Priorities

  • Informed by the network assessment, begin implementing a campus-wide strategy to improve and expand opportunities for the U-M community to learn about and engage with carbon neutrality efforts.
  • Share recommendations and strategies with UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint to assess what can be transferable.

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

  • Engaged 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

  • 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.

  • 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, which convenes organizations throughout the local area to inform community climate action.

Key Objective

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

Progress to Date

  • Initial dashboard is now available on the 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 $350,000 to seven multidisciplinary projects in 2022. Projects will pursue a range of carbon neutrality pathways, including carbon capture, renewable fuels, energy storage, aircraft electrification, solar power, chemical production, and circular economies.
  • CNAP awarded $1.75M to seven multidisciplinary projects in 2021, 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, which includes a significant emphasis on sustainability and carbon neutrality research.