Climate Protection

Guiding Principles
As a signatory to the Carbon Commitment, the campus has strengthened its longstanding commitment to sustainability by pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations to 2000 levels by 2014, 1990 levels by 2020, and achieve climate neutrality by 2025. The campus is committed to making climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and educational experience for all students and to supporting research and other efforts necessary to achieve climate neutrality.
Underpinning this commitment is the University of California’s comprehensive Sustainable Practices Policy, which 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. The policy was originally issued on July 1, 2004, and was most recently revised on November 18, 2013.

Carbon Commitment
The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) program has been rebranded by Second Nature and renamed the “Carbon Commitment”. UCI was an ACUPCC signatory, so we are grandfathered in. The network of signatory institutions is now called the Climate Leadership Network.

Since 2007 UCI has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20,000 metric tons annually by expanding on-site renewable energy, implementing energy efficiency projects, and building green. Some highlights include:

  • Quadrupling the amount of green power the campus generates on-site with the addition of solar photovoltaic canopies on three campus parking structures. Close to 12,000 solar panels now
    generate up to 3.2 megawatts of power for the campus, the amount needed to meet the electrical needs of 1,800 homes.
  • Implementation of a broad range of energy efficiency projects targeting lighting, information technology, and laboratories. These efforts have led to UC Irvine’s recognition in the US Better Buildings Challenge program, the US EPA Climate Leadership Award, and international recognition of UCI’s SmartLabs energy initiative.
  • A robust green building program in which 14 buildings that have achieved a Platinum rating with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program and another ten Gold rated buildings. The campus currently has more close to 3 million gross square feet of building space that has been certified under the LEED program. More information on the U.S. Green Building Council.

Climate Change Leadership
As a public research university, UC Irvine’s climate protection commitments and responsibilities reach beyond emission reductions and also include leadership in the following areas:

  • Wide ranging research into the cause and effects of, and solutions to, climate change
  • Teaching and co-curricular programs to prepare the next generation of leaders to address the environmental, economic, and social challenges posed by climate change
  • Serving as a living laboratory to demonstrate, evaluate, and communicate sustainable operations on-campus and to the broader community

carbon neutrality initiative


Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI)
In 2013 UC President Janet Napolitano announced the Carbon Neutrality Initiative committing the UC system to carbon neutrality for buildings and fleet vehicles by 2025. In order to meet this goal UC Irvine will need to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 80,000 metric tons from current levels. As part of the Sustainable Practices Policy, UC Irvine is also committed to reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

In order to meet these goals a broad range of strategies will be required including increased renewable energy both on and off-site, deep energy efficiency, increased outreach and conservation programs, and fuel switching.


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. 

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

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