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The University of Michigan President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality Final Report & Recommendations

In March 2021, the University of Michigan President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality released its Final Report & Recommendations. In 2018, the University’s President announced a plan to appoint a commission to anlyze options and make recommendations for how the university’s three campuses could achieve carbon neutrality.

The Commissions high-level recommendations:

  • Reach carbon neutrality for Scope 1 emissions across all three campuses by 2025 (inclusive of carbon offsets) and eliminate Scope 1 emissions entirely by 2040;
  • Achieve carbon neutrality for Scope 2 emissions across all three campuses by 2025 or earlier;
  • Establish, by 2025, carbon neutrality goal dates for Scope 3 emissions categories that are set for no later than 2040; and
  • Deepen its commitment to environmental justice and strengthen its connections with local communities.

The Report includes a letter from the Commission to University leaders, its broader community, and all who desire a sustainable and just future. In it, the Commission asserts that the “climate emergency requires a transformation on a collective and institutional scale” done with great urgency.

Scope 1 emissions come from on-campus sources. Scope 2 come from the university’s purchasing electricity from off-campus generators. Scope 3 emissions come from all other indirect sources linked to university operations. However, the Commission states that the University’s investment portfolio lies outside its analysis and recommendations. This is important given the campaign demanding the University divest its portfolio from fossil-fuels.

The full report and recommendations are available at

The Science Based Targets 2020 Annual Progress Report

Science Based Targets. (2021). From Ambition to Impact: How Companies Are Reducing Emissions at Scale with Science-based Targets [Science Based Targets Annual Progress Report].

Founded in 2015, the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) guides companies in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. More than 1,000 companies have completed the SBTi process and committed to targets. Companies with approved targets produce 3.6% of global emissions through Scopes 1 and 2. While companies with SBTs have reduced Scope 1 and 2 emissions 25% since 2015, global emissions from energy and industrial processes grew 3.4% over the same period.

More transparency is needed from companies on their emissions reductions progress. Standardization of reporting is needed to make company reports comparable.

Keeping global warming to 1.5C or below benefits businesses by

  • Increasing economic stability,
  • Reducing flood and extreme weather risks,
  • Reducing workforce exposure to extreme heat, drought, and food stress,
  • Reducing risk of water shortages.

Of the companies with SBTs, 373 (41%) are aligned with a target consistent with keeping global warming below 1.5C.

In the majority of sectors, the largest emissions source is Scope 3, either upstream or downstream from the focal company’s operational emissions. 69 companies have set supplier engagement targets requiring suppliers set SBTs.

Report on Great Lakes climate change impacts

The Environmental Law & Policy Center recently assessed the impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes. The report is available here.

The report makes many high-level conclusions, several of which are:

  1. Winters and springs will have higher precipitation and more frequent high-precipitation events. Summers will be drier.
  2. By 2100, 30-60 days of the year will reach extremely high temperatures above 90-degrees Fahrenheit, compared to today.
  3. The number of extremely cold days below freezing will dramatically decrease.
  4. Changes in precipitation and temperature will impact agriculture, a major industry in the region.
  5. Water quality challenges will become more frequent, especially due to increased pollutant runoff into the Great Lakes system associated with increased precipitation.

Overall, increased precipitation and temperatures might have the greatest impact on the Great Lakes and Midwest region.

Increased precipitation will cause more frequent flooding and flooding in areas historically thought safe from flood risks. In the short term, this will cause economic losses as properties not covered by flood insurance flood and infrastructure built in more flood-prone areas might need to be relocated or abandoned. Government bodies will face pressure to build new water management infrastructure, which is expensive and will strain government budgets already stressed by declining populations and economic activities in many Midwestern communities, especially rural communities.

Increased precipitation will also elevate soil erosion from agricultural land, a long-standing problem in the region that contributes to decreasing soil yields and increasing reliance on ag inputs like fertilizer and manure. More precipitation will increase the rate at which fertilizer and manure wash into streams, drinking water systems, and, ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River. The current vicious cycle in which more soil erosion motivates more inputs, which in turn cause elevated pollution problems might intensify.

Higher temperatures will alter economic and cultural patterns in the region. Many Great Lakes states have rich winter-time cultural traditions such as hockey, ice fishing, and skiing. As temperatures rise, snow quality and amount might decline as more precipitation falls as rain or mixed precipitation. Lakes might freeze later and thaw earlier, reducing frozen lakes as economic and cultural resources.

The Great Lakes region underwent rapid economic and social disruption with deindustrialization over the past several decades. The next few could see similar disruption, but this time from climate change impacts.