The 2023 Annual Report on Sustainable Practices highlights UC’s climate leadership and action for a fossil-free future.

Headshot of President Michael V. Drake

Letter from
the President

This is the University of California’s 20th annual sustainability report — an occasion to take stock of our progress, and to chart a bold course for our future.

Since the University began tracking its climate impact in 2009, it has cut its carbon emissions by approximately 25%, saved $400 million through energy efficiency programs and installed more than 100 on-campus solar projects. This year, the University also signed its first wind power contract, our largest renewable energy commitment to date. We also signed an agreement to add utility-scale batteries to our next Southern California solar project. By 2025, all 10 UC campuses and six academic health centers will use 100 percent clean electricity. Remarkable achievements like these have made the University an acknowledged global leader in sustainable practices. We have much to be proud of.

Read the full letter From the President

This kind of transformative change doesn’t happen spontaneously. The University is a more sustainable institution today because of the ambitious goals it set in the past, and because our community came together to make this work a priority. Now, as we grapple with a growing climate crisis, we’re raising the bar once again. In 2023 we adopted stronger climate goals that put the University on a path to carbon-free operations by 2045. These goals prioritize direct emission reductions, limit the use of carbon offsets and align the University’s climate goals with those of California.

In 2023, we also launched a historic partnership with the State of California to supercharge climate research and innovation statewide. Through $80 million in state-funded climate action grants, the University is supporting dozens of immediate, solutions-focused collaborations between academic researchers and experts across California. An additional $15 million in innovation grants will enable each UC campus to support climate-focused entrepreneurial efforts. This partnership with the State is the kind of decisive action needed to address the challenges climate change poses for California.

Setting new, increasingly bolder goals is central to our mission at the University of California. By setting ambitious goals and building on our record of success, I know we can meet the urgency and the gravity of the climate crisis, while building a brighter future for all.

Signature of President Michael Drake

Michael V. Drake, MD

President, University of California

Headshot of David Phillips

Letter from the
AVP of Capital Programs,
Energy & Sustainability

The University of California began reporting on its sustainability progress 20 years ago. UC’s first annual sustainability report covered two policy areas at the time, green buildings and clean energy, marking a fitting foundation for UC’s climate leadership. This anniversary presents an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and what we’ve learned along the way.

Read the full letter

From 2004 to 2023, the University of California grew its LEED certifications from a single LEED certified building at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management to 427 LEED buildings across the system, three-quarters of which are Gold or Platinum certified. This accomplishment reflects UC’s commitment to a green building policy that saves energy, reduces emissions, uses resources responsibly and creates healthy places for our community to work, study and live. Learning from that first pilot building at UCSB and other early pioneers, UC’s sustainability policy turned a best practice into standard practice across the system.

Similarly, UC locations have demonstrated incredible progress toward our clean energy goals since 2004. When those goals were adopted, the University had only two small solar rooftop systems, which generated just 0.1 megawatts of renewable power. Today, UC can generate more than 55 megawatts of renewable power at our campuses and academic health centers, producing enough electricity to power over 12,000 homes. UC’s own Clean Power Program, formed in 2015, has provided 100 percent clean electricity to all eligible campuses and academic health centers since 2018. The University has also aggressively pursued energy efficiency improvements, resulting in cumulative utility bill savings of more than $400 million since the clean energy policy goals were adopted in 2004. These investments in clean electricity and energy efficiency are foundational to the University’s pursuit of electrification and decarbonization.

Our first annual sustainability report highlighted staff and student participation in sustainability activities, describing the activities of UC’s first sustainability professional, Matthew St.Clair. Twenty years later, sustainability offices lead comprehensive sustainability programs at all UC locations, 13 cross-disciplinary working groups develop and guide implementation of our robust Sustainable Practices Policy, and more than 700 student fellows have conducted innovative research, operational and engagement projects. A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion continues to anchor the growth of our sustainability community and practices. This year, the Sustainability and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Working Group led the development of a new section in the UC Sustainable Practices Policy which formalizes the University’s commitment to applying principles of anti-racism to all sustainability policy areas, programs and initiatives. 

This 2023 sustainability report also marks an important transition for UC as we announced new, stronger climate goals to accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels. The report’s theme, UC climate action for a fossil-free future, provides us with the opportunity to showcase how the University is pursuing decarbonization locally and systemwide. 

It’s clear that UC needs to continue building on our accomplishments and looking ahead to address the mounting challenges of the climate crisis. Looking back at what we’ve accomplished over the past two decades gives me hope that the University’s innovative, committed and inspiring community will lead the way.

David Phillips signature

David Phillips

Associate Vice President, Capital Programs, Energy & Sustainability

Policy Areas

The University of California’s formal sustainability commitments began in 2003 with a Regental action that led to the adoption of the Presidential Policy on Green Building Design and Clean Energy Standards in 2004. Since then, UC has expanded the scope of the Sustainable Practices Policy to include climate, transportation, building operations, waste, procurement, food, water, health and well-being, UC Health and sustainability performance, as well as anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Group of UCD students protest inaction on climate change.

The Sustainable Practices Policy applies to all 10 campuses, six academic health centers, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the UC Office of the President. 

The complete UC Policy on Sustainable Practices can be accessed online, and a summary is available below. UC’s sustainability data summarizes progress toward the goals.


Each UC campus, including its associated academic health center, LBNL and UCOP will set targets and prepare climate action plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from a 2019 baseline that will address:

  • Total emissions
    • Reduce total emissions (scopes 1, 2 and 3) at least 90% by 2045 without relying on voluntary carbon offsets.
    • Negate any residual emissions remaining in 2045 through investments in carbon removal (no more than 10% of 2019 emissions levels).
  • Scope 1 emissions
    • By 2025, set reduction targets for 2030, 2035 and 2040.
    • Incrementally reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions from the on-site combustion of fossil fuels.
    • Allocate funds equal to $25 per metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent for all remaining scope 1 and 2 emissions beginning in 2025 through 2030 toward projects that achieve direct emissions reductions or support climate justice or community benefit programs.
  • Scope 2 emissions
    • Purchase 100% clean electricity beginning in 2025 (LBNL will follow federal requirements).
  • Scope 3 emissions
    • Set scope 3 emissions reduction targets for business travel, commuting and solid waste disposal in alignment with the state of California’s goals.
UCD workers instal parking lot solar panels at West Village
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice

As part of its commitment to applying anti-racism principles to all sustainability policy areas, programs and initiatives, the University will:

  • Complete a diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) assessment of the existing policy.
  • Develop goals that incorporate principles of anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion into specific areas of the policy by 2025.
  • Include a DEIJ impact analysis with any policy addition or revision.
  • Energy efficiency: Reduce each location’s energy use intensity by an average of at least 2% annually.
  • Renewable electricity: Locations will install on-site renewable electricity supplies and storage systems as appropriate to support the location’s climate action goals.
  • Clean electricity: Obtain 100% clean electricity at each campus and health location by 2025. The UC Clean Power Program has been meeting this standard since 2018.
  • On-campus combustion: Increase biogas combustion to at least 20% of on-site natural gas combustion at each campus and academic health center by 2025. These volumes will double by 2030 and then decrease over time. Central procurement of biomethane will conclude before 2040.
Food Service
  • Procure 25% sustainable food as defined by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (AASHE STARS) at each campus and 30% sustainable food as defined by Practice Greenhealth at each academic health center by 2030.
  • All campuses and academic health centers will procure 25% plant-based food by 2030 and strive to procure 30%.
General Sustainability Performance Assessment

All undergraduate campuses must achieve an Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System’s (AASHE STARS) Gold rating and strive for Platinum.

Green Building
  • Design and construct all new buildings and major renovations to a minimum LEED BD+C (Building Design and Construction) Gold rating.
  • Design and construct renovation projects with a cost over $9 million (except acute care facilities) to a minimum LEED ID+C (Interior Design and Construction) certified rating.
  • New parking structures will be designed and constructed to achieve, at a minimum, a Parksmart Silver certification.
  • Prohibit on-site fossil fuel combustion (e.g., natural gas) for space or water heating in all new buildings and major renovation projects (except those projects connected to an existing campus central thermal infrastructure). 
  • Energy-efficient design:
    • Acute care/hospital facilities and medical office buildings: Outperform the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standard 90.1-2010 by at least 30% or meet UC’s whole-building energy performance targets.
    • All other buildings: Outperform the energy requirements of the California Building Code by at least 20% on all new construction and major renovation projects or meet UC’s whole-building energy targets.
  • Achieve at least five points within the available credits in LEED BD+C’s Water Efficiency and Sustainable Sites: Rainwater Management categories.
Health and Well-Being

The UC Healthy Campus Network will review the strengths and gaps in the UC Sustainable Practices Policy and make recommendations for integration based on the following:

  • Environmental and human health co-benefits.
  • Social, physical and emotional well-being.
  • Health equity.

By 2025, suppliers that operate or maintain vending machines on UC locations will:

  • Ensure at least 50% of the beverages and 35% of the food in a vending machine meet the UC Healthy Vending Guidelines for Healthy Spend.

By 2027, suppliers that operate or maintain vending machines on UC locations will:

  • Ensure at least 60% of the beverages and 40% of the food in a vending machine meet the UC Healthy Vending Guidelines for Healthy Spend.
  • Achieve full compliance with required level green spend criteria per product category; target to be reached within three fiscal years after a category is added to the Sustainable Procurement Guidelines.
  • Reach 25% preferred level green spend per product category; target to be reached within three fiscal years after a category is added to the Sustainable Procurement Guidelines.
  • Reach 25% economically and socially responsible spend; target to be reached within five fiscal years of adoption of this section in the Sustainable Procurement Guidelines.
  • Allocate a minimum of 15% of the points utilized in competitive solicitation evaluations to sustainability criteria.
Sustainable Building Operations and Labs

Implement an ongoing Green Labs assessment program and assess three research groups in total at each campus. Report the number of researchers directly and indirectly engaged by the program annually.

  • All sedan and minivan acquisitions will be zero-emission or plug-in hybrid vehicles, except for public safety vehicles with special performance requirements.
  • At least 50% of all vehicles acquired by each UC location after July 2023 will be zero-emission or plug-in hybrid.
A UCOP employee retrieves a bike from the bike rack in the parking garage.

Each location shall strive to:

  • Reduce its percentage of employees and students commuting by single-occupancy vehicles (SOVs) by 10% relative to its 2015 SOV commute rates by 2025.
  • Have no more than 40% of its employees and no more than 30% of all employees and students commuting to the location by SOV by 2050.
  • Have at least 4.5% of commuter vehicles be zero-emission by 2025.
  • Have at least 30% of commuter vehicles be zero-emission by 2050.
  • Take steps needed to normalize and promote telecommuting and flexible work options.
UC Health

Each academic health center will:

  • Obtain 100% clean electricity by 2025. 
  • Design and construct new acute care/hospital facilities and medical office buildings to outperform the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 90.1 – 2010 by at least 30% or meet whole-building energy performance targets per the policy.  
  • Maintain membership in Practice Greenhealth, a nonprofit dedicated to health care sustainability, and achieve Practice Greenhealth’s Greenhealth Partner for Change award. 
  • Achieve a target of 25 pounds of total waste as defined by Practice Greenhealth per adjusted patient day by 2025 and strive for 20 pounds of total waste per adjusted patient day by 2030.
  • Reduce growth-adjusted potable water consumption 20% by 2020 and 36% by 2025, when compared to a three-year-average baseline of fiscal year 2005–06, fiscal year 2006–07 and fiscal year 2007–08.
  • Procure 30% sustainable food as defined by Practice Greenhealth by 2030.
  • Procure 25% plant-based food by 2030 and strive to procure 30%.
  • Evaluate at least three products/devices and associated contracts for reprocessing collection and buyback, and implement a medical device reprocessing program with an FDA-approved third-party reprocessor by 2025. Strive for new contracts to specify that at least 20% of disposables purchased be reprocessed. 
  • Meet UC’s required level green spend target and 25% of UC’s preferred level green spend target for procurement of office supplies, IT hardware and appliances. 
  • Ensure at least 50% of the beverages and 35% of the food in a vending machine meet the UC Healthy Vending Guidelines for Healthy Spend by 2025.
  • Reduce growth-adjusted potable water at each location consumption by 36% by 2025, when compared to a three-year-average baseline of fiscal year 2005–06, fiscal year 2006–07 and fiscal year 2007–08.
  • By 2025, campuses and academic health centers will initiate new water reuse and conservation feasibility evaluations to develop water conservation, water recycling and stormwater reuse projects.
  • By 2025, propose a goal to increase the number of bottle filling stations as a percentage of drinking fountains and identify deficiencies in drinking water access, including consideration of increased drinking water demand during heat wave events.
Zero Waste
  • Reduce per capita municipal solid waste generation to 25% below fiscal year 2015–16 levels by 2025 and 50% below fiscal year 2015–16 levels by 2030 at each campus.
  • Divert 90% of municipal solid waste from the landfill at each campus.
  • Reduce and eliminate single-use plastic items such as bags, foodware accessory items and beverage bottles by 2024.
  • Prohibit the sale, procurement and distribution of packaging foam.
UC Merced uses a solar-powered big belly waste system with recycle, compost, and landfill disposal options.

Timeline of Sustainability

For many decades, the University of California has been committed to sustainability in its operations, education, research and public service.


    UC Santa Barbara creates the first environmental studies program in the country


    UC Santa Cruz establishes the first student farm in the country


    UC issues policy on Trademark Licensing Code of Conduct providing guidance on how workers should be treated to companies granted permission to use the University’s name


    UC Santa Barbara students approve student fee to create Coastal Fund


    UC’s first LEED certification, UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School, is also the first LEED Platinum laboratory building in the world


    UC Berkeley establishes the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability


    President Dynes issues policy on Green Building Design and Clean Energy Standards

    UC launches a Statewide Energy Partnership with four California utilities to accelerate campus energy efficiency


    The Green Initiative Fund referendum passes at UC Santa Barbara

    UC amends Sustainable Practices Policy to include transportation, building renovation, operations, waste management and procurement


    All 10 UC chancellors sign the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment


    Sustainable food service section added to Sustainable Practices Policy


    Goal of installing 10 megawatts of on-campus renewable energy met two years early

    UC achieves 100th LEED certification


    President Napolitano announces the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, committing UC to carbon neutrality by 2025


    President Napolitano announces the Global Food Initiative

    UC becomes the first university in the world to sign the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investing


    UC hosts Bending the Curve Carbon Neutrality Research Summit

    UC commits to invest $1 billion in clean and renewable energy over five years

    UC publishes Framework for Sustainable Investing

    UC sells investments in companies with major revenue from tar sands or thermal coal


    UC signs on to Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures

    UC begins documenting annual carbon footprint of public equities holdings


    Largest solar purchase by any U.S. university (80 megawatts) comes online


    UC Health sustainability section added to Sustainable Practices Policy

    UC achieves 300th LEED certification

    UC Regents vote to make Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) part of the UC Investment Policy

    UC’s internal power company provides 100% clean electricity


    UC General Endowment Pool sells investments in companies that own fossil fuel reserves

    UC recognized as the top college/university in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership rankings


    UC attains $1 billion in cumulative clean energy investments

    UC investment portfolios are free of fossil fuel reserve–owning assets after the sale of more than $1 billion in assets from its pension, endowment and working capital pools

    UC Merced becomes the first public research university in the country to achieve carbon neutrality


    Report and Recommendations on the Use of Herbicides and Other Pesticides completed

    20% sustainable food procurement goal met systemwide

    UC adopts policy to phase out single-use plastics


    UC Center for Climate Justice launches

    UC’s Energy Efficiency Partnership marks $100 million in incentives received from utility companies since the program launched in 2004

    UC receives Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Leadership Award

    UC adopts Small Business Forward Policy


    UC Center for Climate, Health and Equity launches

    UC and CSU jointly launch the K–12 Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Projects initiative

    UC Health becomes a member of the National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Decarbonizing the U.S. Health Sector

    UC announces $80 million grant program to spur climate action research in partnership with the state of California


    UC Health joins the nationwide Health Care Sector Climate Pledge led by the White House and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

    UC’s Retirement Savings Plans sell roughly $1 billion in fossil fuel reserve–owning assets and will exclude such investments going forward

    UC Academic Senate issues memorial on reducing fossil fuel combustion and President Drake creates Pathways to a Fossil Free UC Task Force


    UC adopts new, stronger climate action goals focused on direct decarbonization

    Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion section added to Sustainable Practices Policy

    UC enters into first wind energy contract, the University’s largest renewable energy commitment 


    UC announces $15 million in grants supporting innovation and entrepreneurship toward reaching California’s climate action goals

    UC campuses and academic health centers launch decarbonization studies


    UC campuses and academic health centers to complete decarbonization studies

    UC locations to develop interim greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2030, 2035 and 2040  


    Locations to update their climate action plans

    Campuses to reduce per capita potable water use by 36%

    All campus and academic health center purchased electricity to be 100% carbon-free 


    25% sustainable food procurement goal for campuses and 30% sustainable food procurement goal for academic health centers to be met


    UC campuses, academic health centers and LBNL to achieve 90% reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions; any residual emissions will be negated by carbon removal