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Sustainable 2nd Century

Sustainable 2nd Century

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  • UC Davis Climate Action Plan

    The CAP focuses on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet universitywide goals.

  • White House Climate Leadership Pledge

    On November 12, 2015, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi signed the White House Climate Leadership Pledge on behalf of UC Davis, signaling our institutional commitment to carbon neutrality.

  • Energy

    Find out how UC Davis is improving energy systems on campus.

  • Transportation

    Find out how UC Davis is moving toward sustainable transportation on campus.

  • Climate Change

    UC Davis faculty respond to questions about the science supporting climate change policy in the areas of air quality, agriculture, water, ecology, ancient climate change, solutions, clean technology and forecasting.

  • Conserve Energy

    Learn what you can do to conserve energy at UC Davis and elsewhere.

  • University of California: Climate planning

    See how UC campuses are responding to climate change.

Campus Progress: Climate

Our Sustainable 2nd Century vision: UC Davis embraces the challenge of reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions.

Photo: Water tower with UC Davis logo

Where we are

Currently, most of the energy used on the UC Davis campus comes from fossil fuels burned to create heat and electricity. When fossil fuels are burned, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere and contribute to global climate change, as demonstrated by scientific research, including work done here at UC Davis.

Climate challenges require an integrated, global view of campus development and operations, including how our infrastructure, energy and transportation systems affect greenhouse gas emissions.

We have a complex challenge at UC Davis, with a number of factors that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions:

Greenhouse gas emissions are commonly measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which accounts for the global warming potential of different greenhouse gases. In 2008, UC Davis emitted nearly 239,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) for operations. Commuting and air travel account for another 59,000 MTCO2e, for a total of about 293,000 MTCO2e.

The challenge for UC Davis is how to continue developing as a campus, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Growth cannot add to the problem but must instead provoke and provide solutions.

Evaluating campus climate goals

The UC Policy on Sustainable Practices' Climate Protection section targets three systemwide goals: 

Climate neutrality is defined as the university having a net zero impact on the Earth's climate by minimizing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and using carbon offsets or other measures to mitigate remaining greenhouse gas emissions.

The UC Davis 2009-2010 Climate Action Plan serves as a roadmap for the journey toward a more sustainable future and achieving the campus's part in the University of California's goals. The plan analyzes campus issues around greenhouse gas emissions reductions, energy use and energy sourcing. It calculates current and past greenhouse gas emissions, establishes emissions reduction goals, characterizes reduction options and establishes a blueprint for future action.

The Climate Action Plan focuses on the first two goals (2014 and 2020), with the understanding that climate neutrality will require fundamental shifts in global and national energy policy, energy production and technologies currently using fossil fuels. Further, the plan proposes focusing on emissions related to energy use for campus operations, instead of commuting and air travel, for greater impact. Emissions related to commuting and air travel are less than one-quarter those of campus operations.

In the plan, greenhouse gas emissions were calculated back to 1990, using hard data whenever possible (projected data when not) and including nearly every source of emissions. Calculated emissions for 1990 were 142,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent with a 73 percent increase by 2000 to 246,000 MTCO2e. 

In 2008, UC Davis met the goal set by the University of California for 2014. The Climate Action Plan defines a more aggressive 2014 campus target of 210,000 MTCO2e, almost 15 percent below the 2000 emissions.

Photo: A man and a female student in front of a fume hood holding stickers

Student intern Gloria Guzman and Sustainability Manager Allen Doyle apply stickers to lab fume hoods to encourage efficient use. Expanding user education is one possible action modeled in the Climate Action Plan.

Identifying successful strategies

Successful strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are mostly focused on campus energy use.  Energy use and greenhouse gas emissions are linked because so much of the energy used to power the campus is generated from the combustion of fossil fuels.

Reduce energy use

For UC Davis, the primary strategy for reducing emissions is reducing unnecessary energy use by practicing conservation and implementing efficient technologies. In addition to reducing fossil-fuel related greenhouse gases, reducing energy use also saves money, reduces air pollution, and avoids or delays the need to expand energy-related infrastructure. 

The campus has been aggressively pursuing energy conservation projects over the past two decades, most recently with the Strategic Energy Partnership Program with investor-owned utilities such as Pacific Gas and Electric Company. These projects will continue to be among the most important ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Climate Action Plan uses a model of the Davis campus to estimate future emissions and to consider several possible actions to reduce campus energy use:

Replace fossil fuels with renewable sources

The second strategy for reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions is using renewable energy sources for energy instead of fossil fuels. The Climate Action Plan discusses related options, including:

Sequester carbon

With 5,300 acres, UC Davis is land-rich and is already achieving some unmeasured carbon sequestration. In the Davis campus's urban forest of over 12,000 trees, carbon that has already been released into the atmosphere is recaptured. The Russell Ranch Habitat Mitigation Area is also planted in native bunch grasses, which also recapture (or sequester) some carbon. Research efforts are under way to understand how much carbon is sequestered and released by these lands, and sequestration may play a role in meeting the goals for greenhouse gas reductions.

Renewable energy credits, carbon offsets and allowances

The Climate Action Plan includes a discussion of purchasing carbon credits and offsets but views these as options of last resort because they are expensive, do not offer a long-term solution for emissions reduction and are subject to regulatory changes.


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