Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 88.80
Liaison Richard Demerjian
Submission Date Aug. 11, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of California, Irvine
EN-14: Participation in Public Policy

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Carrie Metzgar
Sustainability and Planning Analyst
Campus Physical and Environmental Planning
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the municipal/local level?:

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the municipal/local level:


Under Senate Bill 1000, California cities are required to adopt environmental justice policies and programs to reduce pollution whenever a city’s General Plan is updated. After the City of Santa Ana, CA neither adequately addressed environmental justice issues in its General Plan update nor provided the locals enough time to review the update, residents and UCI affiliates took action.

UCI faculty members and graduate students from a variety of departments and representatives from Madison Park Neighborhood Association (MPNA) are members of a formal collaborative through the UCI Newkirk Center for Science and Society. The UCI-MPNA Collaborative meets regularly (bimonthly) to support MPNA’s California Air Resources Board (CARB) grant to study air quality and environmental justice issues in Santa Ana. MPNA is a resident-driven non-profit organization that promotes health, education, and community for 8,000 residents that live in Madison Park neighborhood, Santa Ana, CA.

The UCI-MPNA Collaborative wrote dozens of letters advocating to delay Santa Ana’s General Plan in order to more clearly and fully incorporate environmental justice concepts. This advocacy from the University on behalf of the local community was invaluable. In November 2020, the Santa Ana Planning Commission voted to delay the General Plan by a vote of 5 to 2, and the Santa Ana Unified School District Board unanimously passed a resolution committing to advocate for environmental justice in the community and to work with the City on developing a better General Plan.


UCI Associate Chancellor for Sustainability, Wendell Brase, continues to engage in advocacy with the City of Irvine. He maintains regular contact with the City of Irvine Environmental Programs Administrator regarding City energy policy and practices related to the implementation of renewable energy generation at City-owned facilities in Irvine. UCI advocated to City Council members for implementation of solar energy arrays on City properties. UCI is continuing to work with City staff to advocate for solar energy installation and other green energy policy and programs in the City.

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the state/provincial/regional level?:

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the state/provincial/regional level:

UC State Governmental Relations (SGR) (https://www.ucop.edu/state-governmental-relations/) serves as the University’s primary representative to state elected officials and agencies, providing advocacy on legislation and public policies that provide for, extend, and enhance the University’s authority to conduct its business operations in a manner that is efficient and sustainable as well as advocating against measures that would limit this authority. Examples of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the state and regional level are below.


As an example, during the 2017-2018 legislative session, the University of California supported SB 237, a bill to amend Section 365.1 of the Public Utilities Code relating to electricity. The bill requires the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to make changes to the direct access service program authorizing direct energy transactions between electricity suppliers and customers. The changes include a requirement to increase the annual maximum allowable limit of direct access service by 4,000 gigawatt hours for non-residential customers, as well as investigate the viability of a second direct service transactions reopening schedule. Ultimately, this bill helped give the University of California more autonomy over their electricity purchases. The bill was signed by the Governor on September 20, 2018.


UC SGR also worked proactively with the authors of the proposed climate adaptation bonds in spring of 2020. While the bonds did not pass, UC staff were closely involved in their development within the California State Senate, the California State Assembly, and the Governor’s office. Had these proposals been approved, the resulting funds would have been spent primarily on building and retrofitting projects, as well as state grants to communities to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

Below are examples of how UCI engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the state and regional level are below.


Wendell Brase has frequently advocated for better California energy policy and master planning for de-carbonization with CA State Senator John Laird (formerly the Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency) regarding California energy policy and master planning for de-carbonization.


The Center for Ecosystem Climate Solutions (CECS) (https://california-ecosystem-climate.solutions/), which supports the state’s land management needs through data-driven science and technology, provides all of their data as open source and publicly available for use by State agencies for planning and policy purposes. CECS supports the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with their upcoming planning documents. For example, CARB is incorporating some of CECS' data into their 2022 Scoping Plan Update and the NRCS will likely use some of the data layers in their California State Resource Assessment.

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the national level?:

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the national level:

UC Federal Governmental Relations (https://www.ucop.edu/federal-governmental-relations/) is the University’s liaison to the federal government, working with Congress, the administration, federal agencies and national organizations to advocate for the University and its missions in education, research and public service. Examples of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the national level are below.


Convening UC faculty and staff to host Congressional briefings. Congressional briefings that highlight the impact of the University’s sustainability efforts on campus operations and showcase UC as a model for other institutions are a part of the University’s effort to demonstrate the value of investing in UC and advocate for the federal funding that supports the University’s energy and sustainability goals.


Participating in DC lobby days, such as the annual Coalition for National Science Funding Day on Capitol Hill. Representatives from UC campuses attend meetings with members of Congress and their staff and contribute to the National Science Foundation (NSF) project exhibit. Campus representatives also meet with federal legislators, committee staff, and agency contacts throughout the year to discuss faculty and student efforts to address sustainability and climate issues.


The UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative published two additional reports in 2018: Strategic Communication to Achieve Carbon Neutrality within the University of California (https://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/tomkat-strategic-communications), and University of California Strategies for Decarbonization: Replacing Natural Gas (https://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/tomkat-natural-gas-replacement-strategies). These reports are intended for both the UC community, and for the benefit of other institutions across the United States and around the world that are facing similar issues. The initiative also issued its 2020 Annual Report on Sustainable Practices, detailing the status of its goals and timeline, as well as a breakdown of sustainability progress at each campus and affiliated entity. (https://sustainabilityreport.ucop.edu/)


The UC Advocacy Network has also established an online “Climate Lab” that compiles videos, articles, and other multimedia formats to educate visitors to the site about issues ranging from global warming, to clean energy, to sustainability relating to issues like food and technology. As part of the UC’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative, these resources provide easily accessible ways for both the UC community and the greater public to see the ways in which UC research is a fundamental part of the global response to climate change. Visit: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/climate-lab

Below is an example of how UCI engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the national level.


Chancellor Howard Gillman and other campus leaders and University of California dignitaries met with the United States Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh to discuss workforce implications of developing more sustainable transportation infrastructure, including a nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations, a key component of proposed legislation currently being negotiated in Congress. Secretary Walsh was shown an array of UCI sustainable transportation assets, including electric vehicle charging facilities in parking lot 70, a fully electric passenger bus, part of the university’s zero-emissions public transportation fleet, a pickup truck equipped with a mobile, rapid charging system, and a collection of electric vehicles, including a zero-emission cargo/work truck that operates on the campus. For more information, please visit: https://news.uci.edu/2021/07/09/secretary-of-labor-marty-walsh-visits-uci/

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the international level?:

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the international level:


On June 2, 2017, one day after the White House announced that the U.S. would be withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, the University of California released a statement affirming its commitments to the goals of the Paris agreement and doubling down on its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025. UC simultaneously launched a call to members of the UC community through the university’s UC Advocacy Network (UCAN) urging students to make pledges to support and work with California’s Governor, Congressional delegation, and state legislators to ensure that California and the UC system stay at the forefront of combating global climate change. See: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/uc-reaffirms-commitment-carbon-neutrality-sustainability-goals-following-paris-agreement

In November 2019, University of California as a whole reaffirmed its commitment to the climate. Joining over 300 other universities, UC signed the White House pledge "American Campuses Act on Climate Change" to amplify the voice of the higher education community in advance of the United Nations COP21L climate negotiations in Paris, and to inspire world leaders to commit to action on climate change. “UC President Napolitano’s statement on White House exit from Paris climate accord” Article: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/uc-president-napolitano-s-statement-white-house-s-exit-paris-accords


On February 6, 2018, the University of California announced that it had assembled an international coalition of 13 research universities across the United States, Canada and Mexico – called the University Climate Change Coalition, or UC3 – who were committing to work together to galvanize local and regional action on climate change. Member institutions represent more than 1.5 million students across North America. UC3 has since released the 2018 UC3 Progress Report and the 2019 UC3 Impact Report, both of which discuss the mission and achievements of the coalition and its cohorts. Most recently, the coalition released the 2020-2025 UC3 Strategic Plan, providing an updated vision and trajectory for the organization built on its successes and lessons learned over the past two years from cross-sector forums, internal collaborations, and partnerships with local and regional stakeholders. See: https://secondnature.org/initiative/uc3-coalition/


UC has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Mexican Secretariat of Energy (SENER) to promote increased collaboration between the University and Mexico on energy and sustainability efforts, including research; visits from scholars, scientists and administrators; and the development of graduate programs in the field of renewable energy. In 2018, UC, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and Fulbright/COMEXUS initiated a 2018 short-term faculty exchange program for energy fellows. In 2019, the UC-Mexico Initiative announced a call for proposals relating to Critical Mission Studies.

A brief description of other political positions the institution has taken during the previous three years (if applicable):

A brief description of political donations the institution made during the previous three years (if applicable):

Website URL where information about the institution’s sustainability advocacy efforts is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The information for this credit was provided by the University of California Governmental Relations Office, both at the federal and state levels. Additional information was provided by stakeholders at UCI.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.