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A new climate change action plan to meet local and global challenges

I am excited to announce that the University of Utah is creating a new Climate Change Action Plan and reinvigorating efforts to build a healthy, resilient future.

Climate change continues to cause and intensify local and global challenges. Here in Utah, we just experienced the hottest summer on record, the Great Salt Lake reached its lowest recorded level, and historically marginalized members of our community feel the consequences of these changes most intensely. Fortunately, the University of Utah is well positioned to address the needs of our students, employees, patients, and the surrounding community.

In 2008, university leaders first signed the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments, which demonstrate the university’s commitment to addressing climate change and its impacts. I am proud to say that we have accomplished a great deal since then. As Utah’s flagship higher education institution, we are dedicated to developing the knowledge and research needed to address climate change in our state, with 78% of our departments incorporating sustainability into the curriculum and 65% conducting sustainability research. We have cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 31%, and more than 50% of our electricity comes from renewable sources. I am grateful for the leadership and hard work of everyone who helped us get here, including the Sustainability Office, U Facilities, and countless other students, faculty and staff. I am also excited about the recent launch of our Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy, which studies policies and solutions that combat the threats of climate change.

There is a lot to celebrate, and important work still to do. Acknowledging that we must act as quickly as possible, I am moving up the target date for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from 2050 to 2040. The new Climate Change Action Plan will help us achieve this goal by outlining bold steps toward a more sustainable and equitable future, including:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Preparing for the impacts of climate change;
  • Educating future sustainability leaders; and
  • Supporting cutting edge climate research.

Here at the U, we understand that sustainability is about more than the environment—it’s also about economic security and social equity. Prioritizing the needs and voices of individuals and communities most impacted by climate change is a core value in our approach to this work. That’s why our Climate Change Action Plan will provide clear, actionable steps for the university to meet its carbon neutrality and other climate change goals while centering equity in every step of the planning and implementation process.

As we plan for the next phase of action on climate change, we need your help. This semester, there will be opportunities to give your input in person and virtually, and to tell us what you want the U to prioritize in our response to climate change.

Please help us shape the plan, by taking a moment to fill out this survey and join a virtual and in-person roundtable discussion to give your input.

Climate change affects us all, and our best response is one informed directly by the voices of our university and surrounding community—especially those most impacted.

Thank you for your support.

Taylor Randall, President