Climate Protection and Energy

What is Climate Protection?

Climate protection targets the reduction of greenhouse gasses, and aims to prevent or reduce harm from pollution. Sustainability at UC Irvine heavily focuses on the reduction of greenhouse gasses emitted by the university, and achieving its goals of climate neutrality. Climate neutrality is reducing emissions as much as possible, then compensating for remaining emissions through strategies like carbon offsets in order to get to a next zero emission level.

The process of climate neutrality, reducing scope 1 and 2 emissions and balancing indirect offset reductions to meet net zero carbon emissions.

What is UCI’s Commitment to Climate Protection?

To further climate protection, the UCI campus has strengthened its longstanding commitment to sustainability by pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. UCI  has several institutional climate protection commitments, such as the University of California (UC) sustainability policy, the UC 2025 Carbon Neutrality Initiative, and campus sustainability goals. The UC system announced the Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI) and pledged to be carbon neutral by 2025 from scope 1 and 2 carbon emission sources, and the University of California’s comprehensive Sustainable Practices Policy, establishes goals in eight areas of sustainable practices: green building, clean energy, transportation, climate protection, sustainable operations, waste reduction and recycling, environmentally preferable purchasing, and sustainable foodservice.

UCI’s Climate Action Plan plan was adopted in 2007, and since been revised to pledge climate neutrality for Scope 1 and 2 sources  by 2025, and climate neutrality including Scope 3 sources by 2050. The plan seeks to balance environmental and financial stewardship, focus on actions that support UCI’s mission and values, and engage all sectors of the UCI community in pursuit of UCI’s climate protection goals.


  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions to year 1990 levels by 2020.
  • Achieve climate neutrality for scope 1 and 2 sources by 2025.
  • Achieve climate neutrality from specific scope 3 sources (as defined by Second Nature’s Climate Commitment) by 2050 or sooner


  • Energy efficiency: Reduce each location’s energy use intensity by an average of at least 2% annually.
  • Clean electricity: By 2025, each campus and health location will obtain 100% clean electricity. By 2018, the University’s Clean Power Program will provide 100% clean electricity to participating locations.
  • On-campus combustion: By 2025, at least 40% of the natural gas combusted on-site at each campus and health location will be biogas.

Scope 1 emissions come from direct or controlled sources, where scope 2 emissions come indirectly from purchased entities for energy, heating or cooling.

The main campus scope 1 and 2 emissions sources from 2018.

UCI’s energy systems, including purchased electricity, solar, and natural gas.

UCI’s energy systems operate on a combined system of generated and purchased energy. The campus power plant supplies 94% of the total power and uses a combination of natural gas and renewable hydrogen. The remaining power demand is met through purchased direct access electricity and on-site solar.

Scope 3 emissions are the result of activities controlled by the university, like business air travel or commuting, that are directly impacted by UCI.

What is UCI’s Strategy to Reach Climate Neutrality?


The business as usual carbon emissions for the UC system, separating scope 1, scope 2, and total emissions.

UCI will reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions through implementing sustainable practices, using the campus as a living laboratory for sustainability, and taking responsibility over the use of resources. The university’s Climate Action Plan uses a multi-tiered portfolio approach to carbon neutrality, focusing on planning low carbon growth, reducing energy demand, replacing energy systems with renewable ones, and mitigating emissions through carbon offsets.

What is UCI’s Reduction Plan?


The UCI Climate Action Plan strategy laid out in a pyramid diagram.


Low Carbon Growth

To plan for low carbon growth in the future, UCI is implementing different strategies to advance building and energy systems. The Green Buildings program aims to construct planned facilities at LEED silver or gold levels, adding to its current 20 platinum and 10 gold USGBC LEED-certified buildings. The university will also optimize Co-gen and distributed generation by implementing microgrid projects for efficiency, energy storage, and integration of renewable energy.

The image depicts Plaza Verde, which is a new advanced housing complex on campus with a LEED Platinum rating.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a section in the USGBC (US Green Building Council) that certifies buildings and renovations on different levels. The certification uses a points system based on factors like energy efficiency and water usage.


Energy Demand 

To reduce energy demand, UC Irvine will implement deep energy efficiency programs and work on sustainable behavior. The campus fleet will be targeted for reducing energy consumption, in both stationary and mobile entities. The university will also target laboratories, using the Smart Labs and Green Labs programs. Smart labs is a deep energy efficiency program that targets energy use. Additionally, Green Labs is a certification program that promotes sustainable behavior and further promotes energy reduction. 

The image depicts Energy Efficiency and Conservation Green Labs Program.


Low Carbon Energy

In order to reduce GHG emissions, the school will also aim to replace as many sources as possible with clean energy. UCI plans to improve upon its renewable energy infrastructure and invest in other methods of carbon-free energy like biomethane. To increase onsite solar renewable energy, UCI will implement second phase parking structure solar arrays. To further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 10% of natural gas use will be replaced with biomethane beginning in 2025. For the transportation fleet, the campus will implement fuel switching for half of existing fleet operations and convert 20 diesel busses to EV.

The image depicts the UC Five Points Solar PAA.


Carbon Offsets

In order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 , UCI will procure carbon offsets to offset Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Carbon offsets are the ‘currency’ for offsetting in reductions of metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MT CO2e). One carbon offset is equivalent to one MT CO2e. Offsets vary widely in price and typically come from five different project types: methane reduction, industrial gas reduction, energy efficiency, sequestration, or renewable energy. Procured offsets are a temporary solution and will align with UCI’s mission.

The image depicts an urban forestry carbon offsets project.

Interested in talking to your class about carbon offsets? Download this presentation from Brenna Biggs, the 2019-2020 CNI Carbon Offsets fellow.

Where is UCI on the Path to Climate Neutrality?

The portfolio of carbon emissions for the UC system, separating between the different strategic points such as green buildings and energy efficiency.

Cool Campus Challenge

UC Irvine earns 3rd place in the UC Cool Campus Challenge 2.0

The second UC Cool Campus Challenge took place this year from April 1st to April 26th with over 3,200 Anteaters participating. The friendly competition encouraged students, staff, and faculty throughout the University of California system to reduce their carbon footprint by pledging to take sustainability actions. The more pledges made, the more points earned by participants and campuses. UC Berkeley secured 1st place, followed by UCLA in 2nd place, and UCI in 3rd place. Pledges by UCI students, staff, and faculty saved 2.9 million pounds of carbon emissions.

The purpose of the Challenge was to raise awareness about how we can all reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI). The UC CNI aims for all UCs to become carbon neutral by the year 2025. Efforts by UCI students, staff, and faculty are crucial to our campus achieving carbon neutrality. Actions presented by the Cool Campus Challenge are simple ways that every Anteater can make an impact in their daily lives.

The Challenge was promoted at various UCI events throughout April, including the Sustainability Foods Fair, Earth Day Fair, and Cool Campus Challenge Pizza Pledge Party. Check out the University of California press release announcing overall results of the Challenge and how other campuses got involved.

It was a nail-biting race to the finish on Thursday, December 10, 2015 when the Cool Campus Challenge came to a close. More than 19,000 University of California students, staff and faculty came together to take action against climate change.

Together, we pledged to take steps that will save over 20 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually. That’s equivalent to each of us taking nearly 2,000 cars off the road for a year!

See the University of California press release announcing our accomplishments and congratulating UC Irvine on officially becoming the Coolest UC campus in 2015.

Some 4,000 UCI faculty, students and staff signed up — nearly 1,000 more than any other campus. Anteaters led the pack early on, and during the final evening of the Challenge had to defend the top spot as other campuses advanced. UCI participants continued to pledge right up until midnight and secured first place.