TomKat UC Carbon Neutrality Project

Principal Investigator(s): 

David Auston -- Project Director

The TomKat UC Carbon Neutrality Project seeks to develop and deploy solutions to mitigate climate change by capitalizing on the vast resources and researchers within the University of California (UC) system. The goal of the Project is to support innovative multidisciplinary research projects that will substantially accelerate progress of the University of California Carbon Neutrality Initiative. The TomKat UC Carbon Neutrality Project was launched by UC Santa Barbara’s Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE) in partnership with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) to help advance the University of California's system-wide goal to achieve zero net scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Funding for this project was made possible by a gift from the TomKat Foundation together with supplemental funding from the University of California Office of the President.

The TomKat project solicited proposals for working groups to address topics such as technology assessments, energy efficiency, communications strategies, economic incentives, behavior modification, and other potentially high impact topics. Two projects were chosen to work on this initiative. The first project focuses on transitioning UC away from natural gas as an energy source by performing techno-economic analyses of natural gas alternatives. The second project focuses on using strategic communication to build stakeholder support for the necessary actions and changes that are needed to meet the ambitious goals of the University of California Carbon Neutrality Initiative.

The two working groups include:

Natural Gas Exit Strategies

This working group is evaluating options for eliminating natural gas as an energy source at University of California. This group is specifically investigating how energy efficiency, biomethane, and electrification can reduce and replace natural gas consumption at the University of California and move UC towards a net carbon future.

UC-TomKat Carbon Neutrality Strategic Communication

This working group is developing a plan for strategic communications to help the University of California achieve its carbon neutrality goals. This involves identifying key UC decision-makers, conducting audience research, and performing message testing to determine the most effective methods of engagement for different audiences.

The TomKat UC Carbon Neutrality Project is unique, because it has a specific local goal -- creating a pathway for achieving carbon neutrality at the University of California -- which can then be replicated at other large institutions. The teams will identify solutions and strategies that the members of the University of California community can deploy to achieve its sustainability targets. Ultimately, this effort will serve as an example for transitioning larger energy systems away from fossil fuel dependence.

The project draws on the extensive intellectual resources of the ten campuses and the affiliated national laboratories of the University of California system. The complex and multifaceted nature of climate change mitigation requires a dynamic interdisciplinary approach that is both synergistic and interactive. Tackling big challenges like transitioning off natural gas, introducing renewable energy, electrifying transportation, and strategically communicating these initiatives will mandate an integrated approach where technologists, policy experts, economists, behavioral scientists, and communications specialists work together to forge solutions.

Established in 2009 by Tom Steyer and Kathryn Taylor, the TomKat Foundation partners with innovative organizations that envision a world with climate stability, a healthy and just food system, and broad prosperity. The Foundation embraces the inherent interconnectedness of these complex systems. Working at every level, the TomKat Foundation is committed to supporting organizations and initiatives across the country that will take bold action on climate change.


Call for Working Group Proposals (closed on May 2, 2016)

University of California, Santa Barbara press release


Photo Credits

Thumbnail: Jonas Krant

Background: UCSB Sustainability