TomKat UC Carbon Neutrality Project

Principal Investigator(s): 

David Auston, Project Director

Across the world, universities are setting ambitious goals to become carbon neutral to help mitigate climate change. In 2013, the University of California launched its system-wide Carbon Neutrality Initiative, declaring it will end its reliance on fossil fuels and become carbon neutral by 2025. A powerful question remained, however: how can it achieve that goal?

With funding from the TomKat Foundation and the UC Office of the President, NCEAS and UC Santa Barbara’s Institute for Energy Efficiency launched the TomKat UC Carbon Neutrality Project to help develop and deploy feasible strategies for the UC to achieve its ambitious goal.

Capitalizing on the expertise and resources across the university’s ten campuses and its national laboratories, the project solicited ideas from the UC community. Ultimately, it convened two multidisciplinary teams that focused on strategies for two important actions: transitioning away from natural gas and encouraging carbon-neutral behaviors among the university community.

Natural Gas Exit Strategies

This working group evaluated options for phasing out natural gas as an energy source at University of California. They investigated how energy efficiency, biogas, and electrification can reduce and replace natural gas consumption and move the UC towards a net-zero-carbon future.

Strategic Communication

This working group is developing a strategic communications plan to ensure support for carbon-reducing actions among the UC community. Through audience research and message testing, they seek to determine the most effective ways to engage different audiences.

The teams' findings will be applicable to not just the UC system, but also to other institutions undertaking similar endeavors. Ultimately, this effort will serve as an example for how to transition large energy systems toward carbon neutrality.

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.

Read the original press release about the project's launch.

Thumbnail photo credit: Jonas Krant