"If we don't do it, who will?"
With this question last week, UC President Janet Napolitano asserted the university's leadership role in sustainability, especially in carbon neutrality. “It is essential to our stewardship of the environment and to what we hand off to the next generation,” she declared June 9 at UC headquarters in Oakland, at the first meeting of her new Global Climate Leadership Council — students, administrators and professors from around the UC system, plus a few experts from outside the system.
UC Davis has two members on the council:
• Professor Michael Siminovitch, director and co-founder of the California Lighting Technology Center, which works to accelerate the development and commercialization of energy-efficient lighting and daylighting technologies. He holds the Rosenfeld Chair in Energy Efficiency and serves as associate director of the Energy Efficiency Center.
• Elaine Swiedler, a double major in environmental policy analysis and planning, and economics. This summer, she’s interning at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C. Then, in the fall, she’s back at UC Davis for her fourth year, and to continue working at the Student Farm and the Coffee House, where she is the sustainability intern.
Napolitano put 24 people on the council and plans to add one more, a regent yet to be named. See the roster so far.
Napolitano called on the council to find ways to engage faculty, staff and students — leveraging the power of UC’s 10 campuses — to help the university reach its sustainability goals and serve as a “lodestar, a place that can really set an example.”
The council committed to meeting three times each year at different UC campuses. Members will focus on carbon neutrality — reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero — but also will offer guidance on UC’s other sustainability goals.
Achieving carbon neutrality is a difficult but attainable goal, council members said. To succeed, UC must expand its energy efficiency efforts and explore large-scale energy procurement from renewable sources such as solar, wind and biomethane gas captured from landfills and agricultural waste.
“There is really nothing like an audacious goal to make everyone work together,” said Wendell Brase, UC Irvine’s vice chancellor for administration. He and Nathan Brostrom, UC’s executive vice president for business operations, serve as the council's co-chairs.
Napolitano said UC already is a national leader in sustainability. She suggested finding ways to pair UC’s sustainability successes with the university's cutting-edge research on renewable energy and other technology to reduce carbon emissions.
Shortly after becoming UC president last fall, Napolitano launched a sustainability initiative with a 2025 target date for a carbon-neutral UC. Carbon neutrality was already part of UC's policy on sustainable practices.
The policy, adopted in 2003, guides operations in nine areas: green building, clean energy, sustainable transportation, climate protection, sustainable operations, waste reduction and recycling, environmentally preferable purchasing, sustainable food service, and sustainable water systems.
Today, UC campuses are among the greenest in the country.
For example, UC leads the nation in green building, with more than 150 certifications through the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program, for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. UC Davis has 11 LEED certifications for new construction or major renovations, three for interior spaces, and two for operations and maintenance in existing buildings.
Several campuses, including Davis, meet or exceed the university’s benchmark goal of reducing per capita potable water use by 20 percent by 2020. And UC Davis is trying to cut an additional 20 percent (over last year’s consumption).
UC Davis’ 2nd Sustainable Century