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University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel announced a commitment to a new plan that will achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 across all three U-M campuses at Thursday’s Board of Regents meeting.

The plan’s release comes after the completion of the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality’s (PCCN) final report in March 2021. The report outlined strategies and recommendations for the University to achieve specific carbon neutrality goals and benchmarks, many of which appear in the plan announced at the meeting.

The plan aims to eliminate scope 1 emissions, which derive directly from the University’s operations, by 2040. The PCCN’s recommendation of carbon neutrality, inclusive of carbon offsets, for this scope’s emissions by 2025 was not addressed in the plan. Schlissel said he would evaluate carbon offsets — the practice of counting carbon sequestrations that the University contributes to financially elsewhere towards neutrality — in the future.

The University plan aims to achieve carbon neutrality for scope 2 emissions, which come from the purchase of power off campus, by 2025. Defined goals for achieving carbon neutrality for scope 3 emissions, which are any emissions indirectly related to the University, will also be laid out  by 2025, according to the plan. The latter two goals are in alignment with those of the PCCN.

To achieve the elimination of these scopes, the University outlined multiple steps. Some of these include committing to geothermal heating and cooling projects, electrifying Ann Arbor and Dearborn’s bus fleets, requesting that off campus electricity purchases come from renewable sources and creating an executive-level leadership position that will monitor the progress of these carbon neutrality initiatives. The University also plans to create a dashboard that will track the progress of these goals.

Schlissel expressed excitement about taking charge towards a more carbon neutral future at the University.

“To fulfill our mission as a public research university, we must address the climate crisis by leading the way on our campuses and beyond, creating, testing and teaching the knowledge and technologies that will transfer to other large institutions, and inspiring and empowering others to solve the defining scientific and social challenge of our time,” Schlissel said.

The University also hopes to uphold a community culture which values sustainability. The plan outlines steps to achieve this goal, such as incorporating environmental justice principles into the University’s decision-making process, engaging with the communities around the three campuses about climate equity and investing in carbon neutrality research efforts.

Schlissel emphasized how important community involvement will be in the implementation of the new climate neutrality plan.

“(The PCCN’s) final report is a plan created by our community and for our community,” Schlissel said. “Achieving carbon neutrality at an institution of our size and scope, while also providing transferable and scalable models that others can follow, is a huge, ambitious task.”

The University’s commitment comes after years of urging by campus climate activists. Ten demonstrators were arrested in 2019 by the U-M Division of Public Safety and Security while protesting in the Fleming Administration Building for the University to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and divest from fossil fuels.

This is a developing story. Check back at michigandaily.com for more updates. 

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the nature of the carbon neutrality goals. The goals aim to make the University carbon neutral, inclusive of offsets, not necessarily to eliminate emissions.

Summer Managing News Editor Christian Juliano can be reached at julianoc@umich.edu.