How to strengthen the draft new UC Climate Protection Policy

At the end of 2022 the UC established a “Pathways to a Fossil Free UC” task force to replace the university’s carbon neutrality goals with emission reduction goals. This was in large part in response to our efforts calling for campus decarbonization, rather than relying on offsets. A draft of this new “Climate Protection Policy” is now open for feedback. Spoiler alert: we don’t think it’s good enough!

The draft policy sets a new target date of achieving a 90% reduction in 2009-level emissions by 2045. This is way too late. Climate scientists have found we will cross the dangerous 1.5 degC warming threshold in the early 2030s! It is absolutely unacceptable that the UC continue to kick the can down the road and delay taking meaningful climate action.

While the draft policy has an interim goal of achieving a 30% reduction from the 2009 baseline by 2030, several campuses has already achieved this so it’s not really much of a goal…

A big problem with this draft policy it that it lumps Scope 1 (direct emissions), Scope 2 (emissions from purchased electricity) and Scope 3 (emissions from business travel, employee commuting, and waste generated in operations) together, obfuscating the central issue: fossil-fuel burning on our campuses. The draft policy should have separate emission reduction goals for each Scope, with the main focus on Scope 1 emissions, which the university has the most agency over.

The Academic Senate Memorial on Fossil Fuel Combustion set out a timeline for Scope 1 emission reductions based on the hard science of carbon budgeting to allow a 50% chance of staying below 2 degC of warming. The Memorial called for Scope 1 emissions to be reduced by 60% by 2030 and by 95% by 2035. It is these targets that the draft policy should adopt.

The task force drafting the policy is soliciting feedback until March 31st. This is our chance to tell them it needs to be more ambitious. To be a leader in climate action, UC has to go beyond the targets required by the State and the cities the UCs are in.

Here’s our toolkit for submitting comment on the Climate Protection Policy:

Learn more about carbon budgets, the draft policy, and how to submit feedback at our upcoming webinar on Tuesday 3/21 at noon! Register here.

– Monica Nelson, PhD student at UC San Diego

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