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University of Michigan creates commission on carbon neutrality

Initiative spans three campuses in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Flint

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel (Photo: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy)

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan has established a new commission that will recommend steps to take and develop strategies toward achieving a net zero carbon footprint.

President Mark Schlissel announced Monday the U-M President's Commission on Carbon Neutrality was created to engage the university community with regional partners to develop proposals for reducing the university's carbon emissions to environmentally sustainable levels in context of its mission of education, service, research and patient care in a fiscally responsible manner.

He hopes these strategies will act as a model for other institutions and communities that are striving toward the same goal.

The initiative spans all three U-M campuses (Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint) and will include considerations of:

  • Carbon emissions and sequestration.
  • Technology development and policy change.
  • Energy sourcing.
  • Behavioral change.
  • Operations, facilities and mobility.

"Human-influenced global climate change is the defining scientific, social and environmental problem of our age, and the University of Michigan is poised to be a significant part of the solution," said President Mark Schlissel in an address to the U-M community.

"The commission is designed to marshal the intellectual resources and commitment of the U-M community to contribute to a more sustainable and just world. Commission members will engage broadly within the U-M community and with regional experts and partners."

The commission’s membership includes faculty, students, administrators and local partners.

Co-chairs of the commission are Jennifer Haverkamp, director of the Graham Sustainability Institute, and Stephen Forrest, professor of computer science and electrical engineering and former U-M vice president for research.

"As one of the world’s leading public research universities, we are eager to deploy our vast capabilities in research and education in collaboration with regional partners' expertise to address this critical global challenge," Haverkamp said in a statement.

"The commission’s work will aim to provide a roadmap that can be scaled and implemented in institutions and communities much larger than our own," Forrest said in a statement. "Our hope is to have this far-reaching impact on an issue of such central importance to our way of life now, and into the future."

Other commission members include:

  • Henry Baier, associate vice president for facilities and operations, U-M.
  • Andrew Berki, director, Office of Campus Sustainability, U-M.
  • T. Anthony Denton, senior vice president and chief operating officer, U-M Health System, Michigan Medicine.
  • Brandon Hofmeister, senior vice president of governmental, regulatory and public affairs, Consumers Energy.
  • James Paul Holloway, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at the College of Engineering; vice provost for global engagement and interdisciplinary academic affairs, Office of the Provost; and executive vice president for academic affairs, U-M.
  • Gregory Keoleian, director, Center for Sustainable Systems; Peter M. Wege Professor of Sustainable Systems, School for Environment and Sustainability and professor of civil and environmental engineering, College of Engineering, U-M.
  • Larissa Larsen, associate professor of urban and regional planning, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, U-M.
  • Jonathan Overpeck, Samuel A. Graham Dean and Professor; William B. Stapp Collegiate Professor, School for Environment and Sustainability; professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the College of Engineering and professor of earth and environmental sciences at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, U-M.
  • Barry Rabe, J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Environmental Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, U-M.
  • Camilo Serna, vice president of corporate strategy, DTE.
  • Anna Stefanopoulou, William Clay Ford Professor of Manufacturing; professor of mechanical engineering, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the College of Engineering and director at the University of Michigan Energy Institute, U-M.
  • Missy Stults, sustainability and innovations manager for the city of Ann Arbor.
  • Lisa Wozniak, executive director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

Two student members will be chosen in the coming weeks. Schlissel sent invitations to student groups that specialize in the topic of climate change to nominate students. 

To encourage broad input, the commission will be creating various advisory panels, including:

  • Student Advisory Panel.
  • Faculty Expert Advisory Panel.
  • University Advisory Panel.
  • External Advisory Panel.

Through these panels, the university will be engaging with numerous stakeholders to utilize their expertise and gain perspective.

Sustainability centers and institutes at U-M that will be resourced by the commission include the Erb Institute, Graham Sustainability Institute, Michigan Energy Institute, Institute for Social Research as well as the College of Engineering and the School for Environment and Sustainability.

"Throughout what we know will be a long-term effort, engaging the U-M community and our external partners will be central to the process, and to our success," Haverkamp said in a statement. "We are committed to regularly sharing updates and gathering input from all stakeholders, including before finalizing our recommendations to the president."

Final recommendations by the commission will be given to the president in fall 2020, with two interim reports slated to be shared in fall 2019 and spring 2020.

While work toward carbon neutrality gets underway, the university has maintained it is still committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus by 25% by 2020 or even earlier.

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About the Author:

Meredith Bruckner

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.