On Oct. 10, 2018 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the UC system with the 2018 Green Power Leadership Award in the direct project engagement category for sustainability efforts such as the Carbon-Neutral initiative and Clean Energy missive to be completed by 2025. The achievement follows the system’s 2017 Excellence in Green Power award and joins a growing list of accolades recognizing the 10-campus body for outstanding conservation efforts.
UC President Janet Napolitano was also awarded the Green Power Leader of the Year award, echoing the system-wide environmentally conscious initiatives announced as early as 2013. Affirming the UC’s commitment to its ambitions and in response to the award granted at the Renewable Energy Markets Conference, President Napolitano stated, “We need to be bold and ambitious with our solutions to climate change. For its part, the University of California has set a goal to become carbon-neutral by 2025. Together, we can multiply the effect of our individual efforts.”
The achievements follow an accelerated timeline of systemwide energy use investigations and clean energy projects. In November of 2013, Napolitano announced the aforementioned Carbon-Neutral Initiative, pledging that by 2025 every building and vehicle owned by the UC system will produce zero greenhouse gas emissions.
To aid this effort, the TomKat UC Carbon Neutrality Project was announced June 2, 2016. Launched by a $300,000 donation from the TomKat Foundation, the project was spearheaded by UC Santa Barbara faculty in their investigation into provisions that were required to accomplish the task. By June 2018, two reports were published regarding the future of energy use and a step-by-step advisory calling for a replacement of natural gas and a reduction of fossil fuel use.
Earlier this season, California Gov. Jerry Brown organized the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, of which many UC representatives attended in mid Sept. One of these representatives was UCSD atmospheric scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan, who said in a remark to the UC Regents Newsroom that the purpose of his attendance was to “educate and empower young people that climate change is not a hopeless problem. It can be solved … we need to provide tools and education for the next generation.”
The announcement of 100 percent carbon neutrality has since been followed by a commitment from UC Vice President of Energy and Sustainability David Phillips to have the UC system be completely reliant on renewable energy such as solar, wind and water generation. In a statement from the UC Office of the President, in a Sept. 4 press release, Philips states that “UC’s system-wide commitment to carbon neutrality and sustainability originated from students asking the University to practice what it teaches … and their leadership has encouraged us to take a major step by committing to buy 100 percent clean electricity by 2025.”
Philips’ citation of student leadership comes in response to the activism of many CALPIRG student groups operating within the UC system, including the UC Riverside chapter. In an ASUCR meeting in February earlier this year, CALPIRG UCR representative Jess commented to CHASS Senator Martin Cuenca that the student organization was “going up to Sacramento to … be lobbying our assembly members on a bill that pushes California to get all of its energy from renewable energy companies.” Since then, the bill in question (SB 100) has since been signed into law, committing the entire state to 100 percent clean energy by 2045.