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Davis, California

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Petition calling for a transformed energy system garners more than 3,700 signatures

Two UC Davis professors endorse petition

The Green New Deal climate action group at UC San Diego and the UC Green New Deal Coalition recently sponsored a petition through the Action Network to directly address the UC Office of the President and the chancellors of all 10 UC campuses. 

This petition is “demanding a revolution of the UC’s energy system” and requests that “UC develops a detailed plan for true decarbonization of its energy regime for 10 campuses, with appropriate backups for outages.” 

Three unions have endorsed this petition already: University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 5810 and UAW Local 2865, according to the petition.

Among other UC professors in fields related to earth and climate science, social science and energy systems, UC Davis Philosophy Professor Roberta Millstein and Human Ecology Professor Stephen Wheeler endorsed this petition, according to a document of endorsements linked to the petition. 

Millstein said that acting on the climate crisis is “an ethical imperative,” and called for decarbonization, according to the document. Drawing inspiration from the writings of Aldo Leopold, the 20th century ecologist, Millstein emphasized the interdependence of humans, animals and plants and abiotic factors like soil, water and air, via email. 

“It’s important that we remember that we must take action to prevent global climate change from worsening,” Millstein said via email. “We must protect our land communities.”    

As of Oct. 16, 3,785 signatures have been collected, out of a target goal of 5,000. Specifically, approximately more than 350 affiliates of UC Davis have signed, according to data last updated on Oct. 12. 

“The University of California is a large contributor to the production of greenhouse gases that are causing global climate change,” Millstein said. “So, what we do matters for the planet and its inhabitants. We can also set an example for other universities and entities to follow suit.” 

Similarly, Wheeler, who is also the UC Davis representative on the UC-wide Faculty Education and Engagement Task Force of the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, said that the University of California “has an opportunity to lead this shift by getting rid of natural gas on its campuses in the next several years,” according to the document of endorsements.

Camille Kirk, the director of sustainability and campus sustainability at UC Davis, said that UC Davis continues “to find ways to lead on sustainability in [its] solutions and projects” via email. 

“We have invested in energy efficiency projects over the past dozen years, to reduce heating needs, and we have implemented electricity-powered systems (all-electric buildings) in many of our recent construction projects, including our West Village student housing,” Kirk said. “We have invested heavily in renewable electricity generation sources, such as the 16.3 MW solar power plant on campus to provide renewable energy to campus.”

The circulating petition accentuates UC’s dependence on natural gas. According to the Annual Report on Sustainable Practices of 2019, one policy goal of UC overall is for “at least 40 percent of natural gas combusted on-site at each campus and health location [to] be biogas” by 2025. 

Wheeler said via email that a group of 15 faculty members and 10 student leaders had a meeting on Oct. 14, with Chancellor Gary May, Provost Mary Croughan and other university leaders “to deliver the petition and ask for this expanded leadership on climate and sustainability issues.” 

Both the Chancellor and Provost “were supportive of [their] ideas, and it is likely that a task force or steering committee will be established soon,” Wheeler said. 

UC Davis has been named the “No 1. ‘most sustainable’ university in the United States and No. 3 globally” by the GreenMetric ranking for the past three years, according to the UC Davis website

While Kirk said that UC Davis’ annual greenhouse gas inventory for 2020 will be calculated next year, she said she believes that UC Davis is “really close” to meeting the university’s 2020 policy goal to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels. 

“UC Davis is one of the UC campuses that has developed a climate action planning model that does include major electrification efforts,” Kirk said. “We’re on track to meet the Carbon Neutrality Initiative by 2025, using a combination of mainly direct actions (like the Big Shift, the on-site and off-site solar green buildings, biogas, etc.), and some carbon offsets. 

UC Davis is also the first UC campus to measure its nitrogen footprint, according to the Report on Sustainable Practices of 2019.  

“I think it’s important that UC Davis take a leadership role, given our emphasis on environmental sustainability and our expertise in those areas across the curriculum,” Millstein said. “As a tenured faculty member who works on issues in environmental ethics, I think it’s important to stand up and say, this is something that we need to do now.” 

Wheeler said that while “UC Davis has done many good things already to address climate and sustainability issues,” the university “needs to do more to truly be a global leader on these topics.”

Wheeler said he suggests that the university sets a deadline to eliminate the use of

natural gas and establish a UC Davis-wide task force on Climate and Sustainability Initiatives.

 “The whole UC has sustainability goals set by the UC Policy on Sustainability Practices,” Kirk said. “So, UC Davis is working towards those goals, such as carbon neutrality and zero waste.”

Written by: Aarya Gupta — campus@theaggie.org


  1. Environmentalism will never take a meaningful step forward until environmentalists totally abandon any attachment or even reference to the embarrassing Green New Deal, which made environmentalists look like a bunch of fools living in fantasy land, unwilling and unable to deal with any of the practicalities required to actually get things done.

    It’s very sad that so many people are willing to totally commit to bad ideas out of tribal and ideological loyalty instead of trying to make something better. It’s why this country keeps failing along so many different dimensions.


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