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Carbon Neutrality

UC Commitment

In November 2013, President Janet Napolitano announced the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, committing the University of California to emitting net zero greenhouse gases from its buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025 — something no other major university system has done.

UC San Diego 2016–17

Our scope 1 emissions decreased due to inclusion of purchased compliance offsets and scope 2 emissions also decreased slightly. Scope 3 emissions increased 8% in 2016 due to more air and vehicle miles travelled. Total renewable energy installed: 5.97 MW

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greenhouse gas emissions  graph

Achieving Carbon Neutrality

To achieve net zero carbon emissions, we must balance a measured amount of carbon dioxide released with an equivalent amount offset. This generally relates to carbon dioxide releasing processes associated with transportation, energy production and waste reduction.

Legacy of Climate Leadership

In 2002, UC San Diego became a charter member of the Climate Action Registry and was one of the first universities to publically report its greenhouse gas emissions. In 2007, UC San Diego, along with the other UC campuses, became a “charter signatory” to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), now known as the Second Nature's Carbon Commitment. As a signatory institution, UC San Diego is part of the Climate Leadership Network.

In 2008, UC San Diego developed its first Climate Action Plan (PDF), which identified climate neutrality by 2025 as a strategic campus goal. Key operations staff are closely collaborating with students, faculty and administrators to update our plan in coordination with the campus' updated Long Range Development Plan. We envision that the campus will continue to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions through a comprehensive strategy that includes:

  • Existing building energy retrofits and construction of high performance energy efficient buildings
  • Addition of new renewable energy supplies
  • Further conversion of the campus fleet to alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technology
  • Expansion of commuter transportation and business travel options

Campus Actions

In 1961, Dr. Charles Keeling of Scripps Institution of Oceanography showed that rising levels of atmospheric carbon could be correlated to fossil fuel emissions. Since that time, the university has continued to be a leader in climate change research and education, while also aggressively pursuing actions to reduce the campus’ environmental footprint, including:

  • Implementing a comprehensive energy efficiency program that has completed over $100 million in projects and reduced campus greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50,000 metric tons of CO2 (MTCOe2)
  • Creating a highly innovative, world-class microgrid that incorporates campus clean energy resources to provide 90% of the campus’ energy supply
    • 30 megawatt ultra-low emission cogeneration plant
    • Over 2 megawatts of solar generation (with another 1 megawatt off-campus for 3 megawatts total)
    • A 2.8 megawatt renewable energy fuel cell
    • An advanced energy storage system
  • Increasing campus’ thermal energy storage capacity from 3.8 million gallons of chill water to over 7 million gallons, reducing costs and grid demand
  • Converting the campus fleet to over 60% alternative fuel vehicles
  • Establishing one of the largest and most diversified university electric vehicle charging networks in the country
  • Providing exclusive electric vehicle leasing and purchasing opportunities for students, faculty, staff and retirees
  • Building a compressed natural gas (CNG) station dispensing 100% renewably sourced fuel to campus fleet and public vehicles
  • Reducing commuter emissions through partnerships with local transit, and improving bicycle access through a pilot campus bikeshare program

Student Engagement

The UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative Fellowship Program funds student-generated projects that support the UC system’s goal to produce zero-net greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

Meet UC San Diego's 2017-18 fellows.

See all UC fellows.

The Sustainability Ambassadors Program aims to educate and engage students through peer education and programming to raise awareness of UC San Diego’s efforts to reach carbon neutrality and encourage students to implement sustainable living methods.

Faculty Engagement and Research

Faculty Engagement and Research

UC San Diego is a leader in academic and research programs focused on providing climate change education and solutions to meet the growing challenge of supplying clean energy for the future. Researchers from the Center for Energy Research are performing groundbreaking research, such as:

Faculty are also engaged in community projects like inter-disciplinary Deep De-Carbonization Initiative, which includes both technical and social science experts from across the campus.

Future Plans

As the campus moves towards meeting its carbon emission reduction goals, many programs are already underway or scheduled to begin soon. Some of them include:

  • Continued energy use reductions through energy efficiency retrofit projects
  • Increased grid renewable energy purchases through the UC Wholesale Power Program and future purchases of bio-methane gas to offset natural gas use
  • Construction of new highly energy efficient buildings
  • Extension of the Mid-Coast Trolley system to campus, with service planned to start in 2021
  • Installation of additional electric vehicle charging systems for fleet and public use
  • Continuation of attractively priced electric vehicle dealer leasing and purchasing programs for UC San Diego faculty, staff, students and alumni
  • Procurement of new alternative fuel shuttles and other vehicles to replace aging fleet equipment

While not yet programmed, many other projects and initiatives are on the horizon that will help reduce campus emissions.

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