Carbon Neutrality Goals

An institution achieves carbon neutrality when all quantifiable greenhouse gas emissions are eliminated or offset by investments in carbon credits or sequestration projects.

The University of Michigan’s carbon neutrality commitments align with international science-based guidelines, and encompasses 40 million square feet of building space across the Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn campuses, the Michigan Medicine health system, and Athletics.

U-M is committed to:

  • Achieving net-zero emissions from purchased power (Scope 2) by 2025.
  • Eliminating direct, on-campus greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1) by 2040.
  • Establishing goals by 2025 for a wide range of indirect emission sources (Scope 3).
  • Pursuing a net-zero endowment and building on a low-carbon economy.
  • Instilling a university-wide culture of sustainability, with justice as a core principle.

These efforts align with United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidance.

  • U-M is on pace to reduce Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2025, which exceeds the IPCC’s guidance to reduce emissions by 45 percent by 2030.
  • U-M committed to eliminate 100 percent of Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2040 — ten years ahead of the IPCC's global net-zero target.

Read more:

Status updates in the accordions below last updated on December 7, 2021 

Scope 1 Emissions Initial Reduction Strategies

Heat and Power

Near-Term Priorities

  • Selectively install geothermal heating and cooling systems in conjunction with new construction projects.

Progress to Date

  • Geothermal systems planned for the Leinweber Computer Science and Information Building (addition to Bob and Betty Beyster Building on North Campus); expected to be presented for the Board of Regents’ approval in the coming months. 

Current Efforts

  • Additional geothermal projects under evaluation. 
  • Laying the groundwork for North Campus utility master planning process. 
  • All new building and renovation projects are designed to be compatible with renewable energy-driven heating and cooling systems. 

Next Steps

  • Initiate a North Campus utility master plan. 
  • Identify the next set of geothermal project opportunities. 
Decarbonize the Fleet

Near-Term Priorities

  • Decarbonize university buses as a first step toward decarbonizing U-M’s entire vehicle fleet.

Progress to Date

  • Four electric buses purchased for the Ann Arbor campus; to be delivered Fall 2022. 

Current Efforts

  • Logistics, Transportation, and Parking (LTP) working to decarbonize the Ann Arbor vehicle fleet, beginning with buses. 
  • UM-Flint meeting with external vendors, considering pilot program toward electrifying its vehicle fleet. 

Next Steps

  • Pursue continued actions toward decarbonizing the Ann Arbor fleet.
  • Collaborate with UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint toward fleet electrification.

Scope 2 Emissions Initial Reduction Strategies

100% Renewable Purchased Electricity

Near-Term Priorities 

  • Secure all purchased electricity from renewables.

Progress to Date

  • Key potential criteria identified for renewable electricity request for proposal (RFP); including community engagement, justice and equity, and implications for land use, habitat and wildlife.

Current Efforts

  • Refining key criteria and drafting the proposed RFP content. 

Next Steps

  • Finalize and release the RFP. 
  • Complete the RFP process by summer 2022.

Demand-Side Management Initial Strategies

Revolving Energy Fund & Energy Conservation Measures

Near-Term Priorities

  • Launch a revolving energy fund (REF) for energy conservation measures (ECMs), beginning with $25 million over five years.

Progress to Date

  • Identified $5M in energy conservation projects for FY22, across all campuses and auxiliary units.

Current Efforts

  • Preparing to implement FY 22 projects. 
  • Collaborating across the university to design a REF; to become fully operational in FY23.

Next Steps

  • Implement FY22 projects. 
  • Refine the REF design with input from UM-Flint, UM-Dearborn and auxiliary units. 
Building Standards

Near-Term Priorities 

  • Develop new standards for building construction and renovation that reduce life-cycle carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency.

Progress to Date

  • Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) worked throughout Fall 2021 to begin refining emissions standards for U-M buildings.

Current Efforts

  • AEC continuing to develop potential standards, in collaboration with faculty experts and university units.

Next Steps

  • Gain input on building standards from Athletics, Student Life and Michigan Medicine.

Scope 3 Emissions Initial Activities

Scope 3: Carbon Accounting

Near-Term Priorities

  • Develop accounting systems to accurately estimate and track Scope 3 emission categories.

Progress to Date

  • Preliminarily assessed confidence levels around current Scope 3 emissions estimates.
  • Identified outlying data gaps for Scope 3 emission categories.

Current Efforts

  • Further refining confidence levels and data needs across Scope 3 categories.

Next Steps

  • Estimate baseline emissions for Scope 3 categories where data is available.
  • Develop strategies to quantify more challenging Scope 3 categories.
Scope 3: Mitigation

Near-Term Priorities

  • Develop viable strategies to mitigate Scope 3 emissions across multiple categories. 

Progress to Date

  • Collaboration with unit leaders to explore initial mitigation strategies for some Scope 3 emissions categories (e.g. travel).

Current Efforts

  • Beginning to develop roadmaps for mitigating Scope 3 emissions across several categories (e.g., food, leased space, university travel).

Next Steps

  • Collaborate with schools, colleges and units across U-M to raise awareness of and mitigate Scope 3 emissions.

Leadership Structures, Education, Research, and Campus Life Activities

Executive-Level Leader

Near-Term Priorities

  • Create a new executive-level leadership position reporting to the president.

Progress to Date

  • The Office of the President researched comparable positions at other institutions and consulted with search firms.

Current Efforts

  • Drafting a preliminary position description, to be shared with a search advisory committee when appointed.

Next Steps

  • Finalize position description.
  • Appoint search advisory committee
  • Launch search
Community Engagement & Environmental Justice

Near-Term Priorities 

  • Engage intentionally at U-M and with surrounding communities to best address equity and justice issues as they pertain to the university’s carbon neutrality efforts.

Progress to Date

  • Collaborated with Government Relations, Student Sustainability Coalition, Ginsberg Center, and Environmental Justice faculty experts to inform future strategies for effective long-term equitable engagement.

Current Efforts

  • Creating a standardized framework to set expectations around engagement.
  • Consulting with EJ experts to best incorporate EJ principles into U-M policies and actions.
  • Meeting regularly with City of Ann Arbor sustainability staff (A2Zero).
  • Collaboration between UM-Flint and the City of Flint on creating  a city environmental sustainability plan.

Next Steps

  • Continue meeting with U-M EJ faculty to inform future actions.
  • Consult with various experts on carbon offsets and associated standards.
U-M Unit Collaboration

Near-Term Priorities

  • Collaborate with unit leaders to optimally implement carbon neutrality strategies university-wide.

Progress to Date

  • Established a unit leadership council, with representation from major U-M units, that will advise and facilitate carbon neutrality efforts across the university.
  • Consulted with all executive officers and most school and college deans to identify opportunities for collaboration and feedback.

Current Efforts

  • Meeting with many existing university groups (e.g. OCS, Student Life Leadership Assembly, Financial Advisory Committee, Council on Global Engagement, etc.) to share information and progress.

Next Steps

  • Reconvene unit leadership council in December to discuss the campus master planning process.
Dashboard

Near-Term Priorities

  • Develop an interactive and educational progress tracking dashboard to engage U-M and external communities.

Progress to Date

  • Established a core group, including  Information and Technology Services (ITS) and the Office of the Vice President for Communications (OVPC).

Current Efforts

  • Consulting with ITS and OVPC to develop a carbon neutrality tracking tool.

Next Steps

  • Develop preliminary dashboard tool.
  • Solicit feedback from key stakeholders and potential users.
Campus Planning

Near-Term Priorities

  • Initiate a renewed master planning process that includes carbon neutrality as a central component.

Progress to Date

  • Drafted an initial set of guiding principles to share with the U-M community for input.

Current Efforts

  • University Planner’s Office is engaging with unit representatives and experts before seeking broader feedback in Winter 2022.

Next Steps

  • Refine planning principles and prepare for broad U-M community engagement during Winter 2022.
Core Curricula

Near-Term Priorities

  • Engage with academic leaders across all schools and colleges toward integrating sustainability and carbon neutrality into core curricula.

Progress to Date

  • Discussed sustainability curricula with U-M deans to assess the current status of such curricula at each school and college.

Current Status

  • Meeting with U-M academic leaders to explore ways to embed carbon neutrality into curricula.

Next Steps

  • Continue discussions with academic leaders.
Research & Deployment

Near-Term Priorities

  • Make significant investments in carbon neutrality research and deployment, building on multidisciplinary initiatives.

Progress to Date

  • The Carbon Neutrality Acceleration Program (CNAP) awarded $1.75M to seven multidisciplinary projects, each with significant potential to help reduce net carbon emissions.

Current Efforts

  • Consulting with project teams.
  • Assessing project progress and planning next phases of CNAP funding.

Next Steps

  • Additional faculty funding and research support opportunities will be announced during the current 2021/22 academic year.
Campus Life

Near-Term Priorities

  • Develop a campus-wide strategy to improve and expand opportunities for the community to learn about and actively support   U-M’s path to carbon neutrality.

Progress to Date

  • Work stream established, convening a group of approx. 20 staff, students and faculty from across the Ann Arbor campus.
  • Planet Blue Ambassador program hired student interns over the summer to help expand the program to UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn.

Current Efforts

  • Completing a network assessment to identify opportunities to educate, engage and empower the U-M community around carbon neutrality.

Next Steps

  • Apply the to-be-completed network assessment to outline strategies for creating an ethic of sustainability.
  • The Dearborn PBA training will be uploaded to Canvas.

Additional Resources

Contact Information

  • Drew Horning serves as special advisor to the president for carbon neutrality strategy, with responsibility for leading and coordinating the university's efforts to proactively address climate change. Contact Drew at ahorning@umich.edu
  • Lydia Whitbeck supports this work as project manager for carbon neutrality strategy. Contact Lydia at whitbecl@umich.edu