On Monday, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel announced the creation of the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality. It will provide recommendations and strategies on achieving carbon neutrality and work with members of all three campuses. The group is composed of faculty, students and administrators, as well as local partnerships.
According to the mission statement, the commission’s objectives are to interpret the University’s parameters regarding carbon neutrality and create a timeline for reaching the environmentally sustainable and community-inclusive goal. Avenues the initiative will cover include energy sourcing, policy change and technology development, among other topics.
The co-chairs of the commission are Jennifer Haverkamp, director of the Graham Sustainability Institute, and Stephen Forrest, professor of electrical engineering and computer science. There are also two spots for students, which yet to be filled.
The Climate Action Movement, a group composed of students, alumni, faculty and residents, has been active on campus in pressing the importance of achieving carbon neutrality. Engineering junior Logan Vear, president of the Climate Action Movement, said while the group is glad the University is attempting to reach sustainability, they are concerned the commission is too similar to past efforts, which failed.
“We’re happy U of M is starting the process to catch up to our peers on climate action,” Vear said. “However, we’re disappointed that there is little indication that this won’t just be a repeat of the President’s failed Greenhouse Gas Reduction Committee four years ago, particularly given some of the new commission members were on this past committee.”
Additionally, Vear pointed out how some of the members of the commission may have conflicting interests.
“It is also highly disappointing that DTE and Consumers Energy were given spots on the commission itself instead of potentially in an advisory panel, given their history of fighting against climate policy, their advocating for natural gas expansion and particularly their direct conflict of interest being financially dependent upon U of M,” Vear said.
Four advisory panels will be implemented through the commission. They include the Student Advisory Panel, Faculty Expert Panel, University Advisory Panel and the External Advisory Panel.
The Student Advisory Panel will act as a platform for students to present ideas and engage with the commission. Faculty members and other experts will be selected to form the Faculty Expert Advisory panel to advise the commission on solutions for carbon neutrality. A third panel including members of U-M Flint, U-M Dearborn and other University units will make up the University Advisory Panel, and the External Advisory Panel will be comprised of knowledgeable sources outside of the University.
Schlissel told The Daily in an interview in January he believes carbon emissions are a profound societal problem and the University is in good standing to find a solution.
“I’m confident we can get to our 25-percent decrease in greenhouse gas emission goal even early, but that's not enough, and we literally do have to figure out how to approach 100 percent, how to approach a sustainable level of carbon cycling in the environment,” Schlissel said.