Everything you need to know, and what you can do to make UC fossil-free

Despite nearly 10 years of the Carbon Neutrality Initiative the UC continues to emit 1 million tonnes of carbon annually, why won’t it go carbon zero and fully electrify?

Watch the video form of this blog article!

Hi! I’m Bijan, and I’m speaking to you today as the Social Media and Communications Lead for the UC Green New Deal Coalition which is a climate justice and action coalition of organizations and individuals across the UC system, building a movement to push the UC to enact a bold, just, and transformative UC GND that meets the emergency of the climate crisis. 

What I wanted to talk to you briefly about today is the UC’s current climate policy, where they need to do better, and how we are providing a multitude of actionable solutions for them that need to be implemented immediately to avert the worst effects of climate change.

Despite its inception in 2013 and its implementation for almost the past decade, the UC’s current climate commitment, the Carbon Neutrality 2025 Initiative, has failed to reduce the UC’s raw carbon emissions (raw emissions data) that total 1 million tones every year—from the burning of methane in UC’s many cogeneration plants that produce electricity and heat. That number hasn’t changed since at least 2011, with emissions even increasing at some campuses. 

Notably, the Carbon Neutrality Initiative is not a carbon zero commitment. Carbon zero means emissions are not being produced. Carbon neutrality means some emissions continue to be generated but are offset somewhere else to make overall emissions zero.

The UC’s carbon neutrality commitment is almost entirely dependent on purchasing carbon offsets, which act effectively as pollution permits that allow the UC to continue emitting carbon under a business-as-usual model, offsetting responsibility to fully decarbonize its own energy grid (learn more). 

The fact that the UC has chosen to export its responsibility, vacating its moral obligation to safeguard a livable future in the richest country on Earth, at an enormously wealthy university system, is deeply problematic. The UC should be a leader, investing the necessary resources to electrify all 10 of its campuses—but instead it continues to stand behind an outdated and flawed approach.

That’s why we drafted a comprehensive, 74-page, climate policy framework that took a year to finalize, called the UC GND Policy Platform and launched a petition in December of 2021 to gather support in calling on the UCOP, UC Regents, and Chancellors of all 10 UC’s to enact environmental justice initiatives on:

  1. Green Energy 
  2. Transportation 
  3. Housing
  4. Construction
  5. Land Use
  6. Food
  7. Waste
  8. Divestment
  9. Education
  10. Labor

But we need support from members of the UC such as students, faculty, staff, alumni, retirees, unions, and local community members to make this vision a reality. If you think you aren’t powerful enough to make a difference, I’m here to tell you: you are wrong. Let me explain…

The University of California is the 3rd largest employer in a state, that if it were its own country, would be the 5th largest economy in the world. The decisions made here have impacts far and wide, which places members of the UC in a uniquely powerful position as part of a large, prestigious, and influential institution where our voices are amplified on a pedestal by virtue of the university system we are a part of. Student-led movements at the UC have historically been at the forefront of change, and it’s time again for that to be the case.

If we can move the UC, we can move the state and other universities, and if we can move the state, we can move the country.

Change is always possible where you are.

So please join us in signing our petition calling on the UC to act now by enacting a UC GND that will structurally redefine the UC, and establish it as a world leader on climate, serving as a model for what’s possible at every level of society. 

If you want to join the work we’re doing, take a second to fill out our interest form; and if you want to help plan cross-campus Earth Day climate rallies to demonstrate support for our mission to make UC fossil-free, check the box at the bottom of the form to indicate your interest.

Additionally, the UC Board of Regents meet 6 times every year, every other month. These meetings allow for Public Comment, both in writing and in person (virtually) to speak on matters relating to the UC and agenda items for that meeting. So be on the lookout for opportunities to take action with us to voice concern over the UC’s lackluster climate policy and in advocating for a UC Green New Deal!

Thank you so much for reading and for your support!

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