University of California, Los Angeles

Student Preparedness

UCLA has conducted comprehensive assessments of academic programs and identified over 400 faculty and thousands of students from every corner of campus engaged in sustainability related research and training through 58 degree and certificate programs, 32 interdisciplinary institutes and centers and almost 600 courses. The Leaders in Sustainability graduate certificate has been recognized as a groundbreaking interdisciplinary program, and the undergraduate Sustainability Action Research Program been recognized nationwide as a model for creating a living laboratory where students collaborate with staff and faculty on applied sustainability research on campus.

The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge (see Innovation) has provided opportunities through the Grand Challenges Undergraduate Research Scholars Program and fellowships. The Scholars program is a year long course for 2nd and 3rd year undergraduates that provides students with a traditional mentored research experience with faculty and an interdisciplinary research experience with peers to develop and implement an actionable sustainability project. The fellows have included two graduate students working in the LA Mayor’s sustainability office on energy and water in municipal buildings and EV car sharing in underserved communities. In addition, 12 other fellows worked on sustainability projects ranging from a LA countywide renewable energy potential assessment, to evaluating the role of warming in the current and future California droughts.

In addition to these academic opportunities, students are also part of a wide variety of co-curricular education on climate and sustainability, from residence hall energy competitions to conferences and events. UCLA’s Sustainable Theme Communities program won a Best Practice Award last year.

Climate Innovation

UCLA launched the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge campus wide research initiative in 2013 in response to the local effects of climate change in the region. Sustainable LA aligns faculty, researchers, students, partner institutions, policymakers, and community stakeholders around a research-based action plan to achieve three key goals in Los Angeles County by 2050. These goals are to power 100% of energy and transportation needs with renewable energy; obtain 100% of water supply from sources within LA County; and enhance ecosystem health together with human health and wellbeing. Recent notable achievements include1) Release of the Five-Year Work Plan detailing over 100 research recommendations critical to delivering a Sustainable LA Implementation Plan by 2020; 2) Symposium to explore the challenges of sustainability and civic, open, and urban data where UCLA and external researchers and community leaders presented and discussed needs, contributions, and challenges; 3) Awarding of $1.2M to 11 research projects; topics include developing lightweight solar panels that double as batteries and exploring how to minimize imported water; 4) A California Conservation Genomics Workshop with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that gathered scientists, resource managers, and policy leaders to discuss how conservation genomics, remote sensing, and climate modeling can better inform wildlife management and help assess energy, transportation, and regional impacts; and 5) A workshop on “Understanding Local Stormwater Capture Potential” as part of a series to evaluate “LA’s Water Resource Future” that was attended by experts in stormwater management, capture, and infiltration in urban spaces, climate change, and ecosystems.

Creating Opportunity 

The University of California has had a successful partnership with Investor Owned Utilities for years. The campus was not included because they have a municipal utility- LADWP. Despite this, the campus still debt financed $30 million in energy efficiency and took advantage of utility rebates. For 2015 UCLA was honored in the first annual awards by their utility as the top large customer in energy efficiency, and third in water. This year UCLA was able to successfully work with their utility and bring them on board the Statewide Energy Partnership. This agreement will increase energy efficiency incentives and provide additional support. Last year UCLA became the first UC to join the Billion Dollar Green Initiative, making a commitment to invest over $15 million in energy efficiency projects and reinvest half the savings. To achieve this commitment, UCLA has secured over $25 million in debt financing for the next five years of efficiency projects. For the 2014 emissions year, through a combination of efficiency and offsets, UCLA achieved the UC 2020 goal of 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Along with the other ten UC campuses, UCLA is committed to carbon neutrality by 2025 and is working on the plan to achieve that target. In addition to addressing their own footprint, UCLA’s advocacy played an important role in the Mobility Plan 2035 to address commute emissions in the region, and through the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge is working to bring the entire region to 100% renewable energy.