Newswise — ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan has taken an important step toward its goal of carbon neutrality with the selection of the core team that will recommend how to get there, as well as develop scalable and transferable strategies that can be used by other institutions and larger communities to achieve the same goal.

The U-M President's Commission on Carbon Neutrality and its advisory panels will bring together the U-M community and regional partners to develop recommendations for how to reduce U-M's carbon emissions to levels that are environmentally sustainable, in a fiscally responsible manner and in the context of its mission of education, research, service and patient care.

The scope of the charge to the advisory committee to the president spans all three U-M campuses—Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn—and includes, but is not limited to: carbon emissions and sequestration; energy sourcing; technology development and policy change; facilities, operations and mobility; and behavioral change.

"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 a message to the university 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.

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

"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.

"The commission's work," Forrest said, "will aim to provide a roadmap that can be scaled and implemented in institutions and communities much larger than our own. 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 members of the commission 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; professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, 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, College of Engineering; and professor of earth and environmental sciences, 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 corporate strategy, DTE.
  • Anna Stefanopoulou, William Clay Ford Professor of Manufacturing; professor of mechanical engineering, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, College of Engineering; and director, University of Michigan Energy Institute, U-M.
  • Missy Stults, sustainability & innovations manager, city of Ann Arbor.
  • Lisa Wozniak, executive director, Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
  • U-M student member, forthcoming.
  • U-M student member, forthcoming.

The commission also will include two students who will be selected in the coming weeks. Invitations requesting nominations for students were sent from the president to student groups that have been heavily engaged on the topic of climate change.

Because broad input is critical to the development of the recommendations, the commission will create several advisory panels to provide various perspectives and expertise, and to serve as a forum for connecting with key stakeholder groups.

The panels include the Student Advisory Panel, Faculty Expert Advisory Panel, University Advisory Panel and External Advisory Panel. The panels will be organized by the commission co-chairs as the commission gets under way.

U-M has a longstanding commitment to sustainability at the highest levels in education, research, operations and engagement.

Several centers and institutes have served as key partners in U-M sustainability and will be drawn on by the commission to inform their work, including the Erb Institute, Michigan Energy Institute, Graham Sustainability Institute, Institute for Social Research and core academic units such as the School for Environment and Sustainability and College of Engineering.

The commission will begin its work quickly to define carbon neutrality in the context of the U-M, as well as set a timeline and recommend strategies to achieve that goal. The recommendations will include ways in which all members of the university community can participate and share the responsibility for U-M's success.

One of the commission's initial tasks will be to clearly define and prioritize the dimensions of U-M's challenge of achieving carbon neutrality. This will include consideration of geographical, technological, financial, behavioral and policy—at the U-M, city, state and federal levels—dimensions, as well as opportunities for replicability and scalability.

In addition, the commission will begin engaging with a wide range of stakeholders to gain their knowledge and perspectives, including through the panels of advisers.

The broader community also will have multiple opportunities to provide input on the development of the recommendations through open forums and public comment mechanisms.   

"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. "We are committed to regularly sharing updates and gathering input from all stakeholders, including before finalizing our recommendations to the president."

The commission is expected to share an initial interim report in fall 2019, a second interim report in spring 2020 and final recommendations to the president in fall 2020.

While this important work gets under way, the university remains committed to reaching its current campus goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2025, and even exceed it ahead of schedule.

For information on the commission and its work: