On the theme of the 2021 Annual Report on Sustainable Practices, UC launched the Center for Climate Justice, whose activities span all the categories in this section of the report. Below are several other highlights around research, education and outreach, and students.

Research

UC’s research and innovation in climate-related science and solutions extends across basic and applied research, education, training and service, as indicated by a subset of over 1,000 project awards with project title keywords “climate” and “energy” totaling nearly $440 million in estimated award dollars over five years. The University also offers for licensing an estimated 330 energy and climate-related technologies and products across UC campuses and affiliated national laboratories.

In 2021, the University of California Research Initiatives made over $6 million in new investments in multicampus and systemwide research projects tackling issues at the intersection of climate, sustainability, equity and resilience. Highlights from these projects include:

Additional climate-related projects include the CalTestBed Initiative, with the nation’s largest clean energy testbed ecosystem, which offers a wide collection of 60 world-class assets, facilities, infrastructure and resources to clean-energy entrepreneurs, all available at UC campuses and affiliated national laboratory locations. Additionally, in order to provide local, county, state and federal agencies, officials and legislators with ready access to the latest in science-informed solutions amid record fire losses, extreme drought and climate change, the UC Wildfire Symposium Series was launched in June 2021 and will continue to host symposia every two months.

UC Natural Reserve System

The UC Natural Reserve System launched the Field Science Fellowship in 2020 to provide students from backgrounds underrepresented in the field sciences with hands-on outdoor research experience in subjects such as environmental science, geology and conservation.

Fire blistered Arbor Creek Experimental Watershed within Blue Oak Ranch Reserve, but spared much of the aboveground equipment.

The four inaugural fellows researched topics from native bees to ribbon worm diversity at UC’s natural reserves.

Education 

Last year, among the many courses across the system on every aspect of climate change and sustainability, two systemwide collaborations convened University faculty and climate justice community leaders to advance education that centers on equity and climate justice. 

  • The UC Center for Climate Justice launched in spring 2021 to unite the UC system in an effort to address climate change as a social justice and equity issue. The center is committed to working collaboratively with researchers, policymakers, educators and other climate leaders who share a common vision of seeking climate solutions and taking action centered on social, environmental and racial justice and equity.
  • The UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative funded a Climate Justice Symposium for Transforming Education. The virtual conference featured UC and Cal State University faculty and students discussing how to integrate climate justice into higher education curriculum (including medical school curriculum), community engagement through climate justice curricula, just and transformative pedagogies, and the role of health in the climate crisis dialogue.
Students Working in a Lab

Students

The University of California’s environmental sustainability goals have roots in student activism, beginning almost 20 years ago when students encouraged the Regents to approve UC’s first green building and clean energy policy, which they did in 2003. 

The UC President’s Bonnie Reiss Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI) Student Fellowship and Global Food Initiative (GFI) Student Fellowship programs fund student-generated research and engagement projects across all 10 UC campuses, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the UC Office of the President.

Students study on a bench underneath a large solar installation

Carbon Neutrality Initiative Fellows

44

annual fellows in 2021

279

total fellows since 2014

Global Food Initiative Fellows

45

annual fellows in 2021

289

total fellows since 2014

UC Global Food Initiative Fellows test equipment in a field surrounded by cows

Academic Senate

The University of California’s Academic Senate carries out shared governance responsibilities established by the Regents and relating to academic matters. Academic Senate divisions are becoming increasingly involved in advancing climate action and education, as the two highlights below illustrate.

Students in chairs watching a presentation at the Sustainability Summit

The UCSF Academic Senate’s Sustainability Committee drafted new bylaws, reestablishing itself as a standing committee and continuing the advancement of climate-centered education and programming. Notably, in the 2020–21 academic year, the committee: 

  • Co-sponsored and co-organized the 2020 NorCal Symposium on Climate and Pandemic Resilience in Health Care and the 2021 NorCal Mini Symposium on Climate and Pandemic Resilience. 
  • Awarded pilot grants to the UCSF Center for Climate, Health, and Equity and the UCSF Climate Change and Mental Health Task Force.
  • Organized a three-part climate change and health speaker series.

UC San Diego Academic Senate’s Campus Climate Change Committee was formed in 2020 in response to a recommendation by a UC San Diego senate academic task force and is the first such committee in the UC system. In the 2020–21 academic year, the committee created: 

  • A successful senate resolution to make the entire UC San Diego campus a fossil-free campus. The resolution calls for UC San Diego to forgo any reliance on new fossil fuel infrastructure, even for hospitals. 
  • A proposal for climate education for all undergraduates.
  • A draft resolution for ethical practices calling for disclosure of funding from fossil fuel–related industries.
  • A report on food waste with emphasis on its climate mitigation potential for the UC San Diego campus.