UC Berkeley meets carbon emissions reduction pledge 2 years early

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UC Berkeley fulfilled its pledge to reduce the campus’s carbon emissions to 1990 levels two years ahead of schedule, campus officials announced Tuesday.

Set by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau in 2007, the pledge committed UC Berkeley to reducing its carbon emissions by one-third by 2014. According to recent data on campus emissions, UC Berkeley reached this target in 2012.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve been doing so far,” said Lisa McNeilly, director of UC Berkeley’s Office of Sustainability. “Setting the target dramatically accelerated the number of projects that were being undertaken on campus.”

UC Berkeley also reached targets set by the university’s Sustainable Practices Policy guidelines and California’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act eight years ahead of schedule. Both call for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020.

Since 2006, UC Berkeley has saved 20 million kilowatt-hours of electricity by undertaking energy-efficient infrastructure projects such as retrofitting buildings and improving heating and ventilation. The campus also expanded its number of data-retrieving sources and updated reporting methods to improve the accuracy of emissions tracking.

Additionally, McNeilly said, the number of students driving to campus has been cut in half because more students today use mass-transit services and bicycles. This reduced the amount of fuel used by 1 million gallons.

To meet their target, the Office of Sustainability worked closely with the Cal Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of faculty, staff and students working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

“It’s really amazing how many different stakeholders we had in this process,” said Autumn Petros-Good, a member of CalCAP’s steering committee and a postdoctoral student at UC Berkeley. “We were able to bring all these voices together and come to a consensus on how to meet this goal.”

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced that he will be setting a new target in spring 2014 to further reduce the campus’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

During Wednesday’s UC Board of Regents meeting, UC President Janet Napolitano also introduced an initiative calling on the UC system to reach zero net energy consumption by 2025.

UC Berkeley Energy and Resources Group professor Daniel Kammen said there is “no question” UC Berkeley should be able to meet this target.

“We are one of the top universities working on energy everywhere, and it really behooves us to play a leadership role here,” Kammen said. “This (accomplishment) shows that without doing anything really dramatic, meeting these targets aren’t really hard.”

Other universities that are leaders in energy sustainability include Cornell University, MIT, Carnegie Mellon University and others, he said.

According to McNeilly, the Office of Sustainability will be working with CalCAP to put together recommendations for setting future emission-reduction targets.

Contact Jessie Lau at [email protected].