The fiscal year 2022–23 California state budget, finalized in June, includes a $185 million investment in UC’s trailblazing research on climate change. This vital funding will provide seed and matching grants for promising climate research and climate-related innovation and entrepreneurship solutions. The investment also includes funds for climate initiatives at UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz and UC Merced. Leveraging the University’s expertise in climate action, this support will help build climate resilience in communities as UC works to mitigate the impacts of a warming world.
UC’s research and innovation in climate-related science and solutions extend 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 licensing for an estimated 330 energy- and climate-related technologies and products across UC campuses and affiliated national laboratories.
In 2022, the University of California Research Initiatives, through the UC National Laboratory Fees Research Program, made $11.5 million in new research investments in multicampus– national laboratory collaborative projects tackling climate and decarbonization, and providing training support for early career scientists.
UC Natural Reserve System
The UC Natural Reserve System (NRS) is building partnerships across state and international borders to strengthen California’s resilience to climate change. A partnership between UC scientists, UC Extension and CAL FIRE has sparked a fire research program at Sedgwick Reserve to study ways to conduct prescribed burns to aid natural ecosystems while reducing the flammability of grassland, oak woodland and coastal sage scrub. To help UC scientists extend their research horizons, the NRS established a sister reserve relationship with the seven regional centers and field stations of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Both reserve networks include Mediterranean-climate ecosystems, similar vegetation types and long coastlines featuring productive upwelling centers. These commonalities pave the way for complementary studies on flora, fauna, wildfire regimes and climate. In addition, NASA has partnered with UC researchers to reconcile aerial spectrometry readings with data on plant phenology and drought stress collected at Sedgwick, Coal Oil Point and Carpinteria Salt Marsh reserves. The results will inform an upcoming satellite mission that will monitor changes in terrestrial and coastal habitats across the globe.
Last year, among the many courses across the system on every aspect of climate change and sustainability, the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative funded the development of two new systemwide courses to expand the Bending the Curve course platform: Climate Justice; and Climate Risk, Resilience and Adaptation. The new Climate Justice course was piloted on the UC Merced campus in fall 2022 and will expand to other UC campuses in 2023. The original Bending the Curve course was offered five times in fiscal year 2021–22, with a total of 256 students completing the course at the UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz and UC Santa Barbara campuses.
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 Office of the President oversees the Bonnie Reiss Climate Action Student Fellowship and Global Food Initiative (GFI) Student Fellowship programs, which fund student-generated research and engagement projects across all 10 UC campuses, academic health centers, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the UC Office of the President.
In 2022, the GFI partnered with the Plant Futures Initiative, a nonprofit social enterprise originating at the University of California, Berkeley, for additional fellowship opportunities to support a publicly offered symposium and an innovative challenge lab that assigns students as consultants to budding food startups.
Carbon Neutrality Initiative Fellows
annual fellows in 2021–22
total fellows since 2014
Global Food Initiative Fellows
annual fellows in 2021–22
total fellows since 2014
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.
Academic Senate Climate Crisis Task Force and Memorial on Reducing Fossil Fuel Combustion
A new ad hoc faculty Climate Crisis Task Force convened in fiscal year 2021–22 to discuss campus activities related to the climate crisis and brainstorm strategies for building a sustained Senate role in highlighting and addressing climate crisis issues on the campuses. The Climate Crisis Task Force authored a memorial that “petitions the Regents for investments in UC’s infrastructure that will reduce on-campus fossil fuel combustion by at least 60% of current levels by 2030 and by 95% of current levels by 2035.” The faculty of the Academic Senate approved the memorial in June. Of 3,649 Senate members who voted, 84.6% voted in favor of the memorial.
Campus-Level Senate Climate and Sustainability Accomplishments
Academic Senate divisions at different UC campuses engaged in climate and sustainability topics during fiscal year 2021–22. The following are highlights:
- UC Irvine’s Academic Senate division convened a new task force to make recommendations on how the campus should move forward on issues related to climate change.
- UCLA created a new Academic Senate special committee on the campus response to the climate crisis, which launched in the fall of 2022.
- UC San Diego’s Senate Committee on Campus Climate Change explored the feasibility of UC transitioning to banking partners that don’t finance fossil extraction, offshore drilling, pipelines, tar sands or coal.
- UCSF’s Senate Committee on Sustainability co-sponsored and co-organized the 2021 NorCal Symposium on Climate, Health and Equity and the 2022 NorCal Mini Symposium on Climate, Health and Equity. It also contributed to the development of the UCSF Bicycle and Micromobility Plan.