Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Climate change is affecting every country in the world. In 2018, over 39 million people worldwide were affected by changing weather patterns, rising sea levels, and more extreme weather events. If left unchecked, climate change will cause aver- age global temperatures to increase beyond 3°C, and will adversely affect every ecosystem. Today we can take actions that will lead to more jobs, great prosperity, and better lives for all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building climate resilience.
Sustainable Development Goal #13 is all about looking closely at how climate change is affecting the world and taking swift action to mitigate and adapt to combat it. At the University of Minnesota, research on climate change and its impact is conducted systemwide and looks at everything from how we can adapt to mitigate the potential effects of climate change by developing more climate resilient plants and crops, to designing buildings that can better withstand extreme weather, to how we can change University policies and systems to limit our impact on the environment, to sharing with the public how climate change affects them and training future climate warriors who will advocate for needed changes and partnerships well into the future.
RESEARCH AND EXPERTISE
OUTREACH AND PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT
EDUCATION AND STUDENTS
UMN POLICIES AND ADMINISTRATION
Low-carbon energy use
The University of Minnesota tracks the use of renewable/low-carbon energy where the institution maintains legal title to the beneficial environmental attributes of the generation (e.g. RECs) and for federal regulatory requirements (e.g. E85 and biodiesel dispensing in our fleet). Selected programs, representative of efforts across our University system are highlighted.
Second Nature has worked with over 4,000 faculty and administrators at hundreds of colleges and universities to help make the principles of sustainability fundamental to every aspect of higher education. Since 2008, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus has provided data to track its total greenhouse gas emissions with the target of decreasing emissions by 49 percent by 2021. The Morris campus has provided data dating back to 2005 with the aim of reducing emissions by 70 percent by 2017.
In 2019, UMN Morris ranked #1 in the U.S. for most renewable electricity generated on campus per full-time equivalent (FTE) student by Environment America. On average, about 70% of electricity used on campus daily is generated by renewables. Annually they produce more electricity than they need through a combination of wind turbines, biomass gasification facility, and solar arrays.
Local education programs
The University of Minnesota provides climate education programs to communities throughout the State of Minnesota, USA. Programs may focus on activities/behaviors and reference topics relevant for local communities, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy adoption, which have climate benefits. Selected programs, representative of efforts across our University system are highlighted.
The Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership advances critical climate science, champions adaptation leadership and supports climate resilience actions and collaborations across sectors and levels of government to ensure Minnesota is making needed progress to prepare for our changing climate.
Modeling Integrated Energy Communities for the 21st Century in Minnesota and Germany is pairing Minnesota municipalities with award-winning climate-smart communities in Germany to accelerate progress toward a cleaner and more efficient energy footprint. In 2016, five communities in Minnesota were chosen to participate.
The Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) are a partnership among the University of Minnesota, the MN Department of Commerce, Southwest Regional Development Commission and Great Plains Institute with a shared mission to help individuals and their communities identify and implement community-based clean energy projects.
Climate action plan
The University of Minnesota is a signatory to the Second Nature Carbon Commitment and our Morris campus is a signatory to the Second Nature Climate Commitment. Both commitments require the development of climate action plans which are highlighted below.
In December 2010 the University of Minnesota Twin Cities published its first climate action plan to affirm and advance the institution’s participation in the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. The plan laid out aspirational goals and broad strategies for reducing, and ultimately eliminating, the campus’ net greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.
The Morris Model is a partnership for progress made up of numerous groups from across the Morris community focused on five key areas: energy conservation, clean energy, community resilience, cultural exchange, and celebration. Within their strategic plan, they have identified specific goals related to clean and efficient energy, transportation, waste reduction and recycling, and education.
The City of Minneapolis's Climate Action Plan references goals of the University's plan on page 26. University staff participated in the City's planning efforts and the University's plan was incorporated into the City's, as the University is a large entity within the municipality.
Cooperative planning for climate change disasters
UMN works with governments at the City, County, and State/Regional level on climate change disaster planning. Representative UMN programs are highlighted below.
The 2020 Climate Change Subcabinet report to the Governor highlights several UMN contributions to the Minnesota climate protection activities. Among those highlighted is UMN U-Spatial's Heat Vulnerability in Minnesota Tool, which is an interactive website designed to help assess community vulnerability to extreme heat with an emphasis on health impacts and marginalized populations.
The Hennepin County Climate Action Plan shows UMN modeled urban heat island risks and effects on health (page 25), provided technical support, and facilitated community climate planning meetings for the largest and most urban county in Minnesota.
The Morris Model is a community-wide UMN-public-private partnership to make Morris a model community for sustainable practices informed by the co-developed strategic and resilience plans. UMN experts are heavily involved in both strategic and resilience planning, including plans to deal with extreme weather.
Inform and support government
Below we have highlighted three of many UMN climate change programs supporting local and regional government decision making.
The Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership's Climate and Health Vulnerability Tool provides communities to visualize and analyze health, climate, and environment data. Minnesota communities can use this tool to better understand local climate exposure probabilities and vulnerabilities, ultimately supporting more strategic and equitable resilience planning.
The Morris Model is a community-wide UMN-public-private partnership to make Morris a model community for sustainable practices informed by the co-developed strategic and resilience plans. The resiliency series was used to help inform City and County government officials on expected climate impacts and vulnerabilities.
The Climate Explorer Tool provides government officials and policy makers the ability to visualize climate change risk. It allows the exploration of temperature, precipitation, and drought severity data (historical and projected) for the entire state of Minnesota or for a chosen sub-region.
Environmental education collaboration with non-profits
Three of many UMN programs that work with non-profit organizations (NGOs) on climate adaptation.
The Midwest Climate Summit was a partnership of higher education institutions and NGOs to accelerate climate action in the Midwest. UMN representatives and NGOs were heavily engaged in the Summit executive and steering committees. UMN also had representatives on all program sub-committees including co-chairing Science & Research.
The Natural Capital project is a collaboration with the Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Federation on ecosystem services. Select "Our Work" from the left-hand navigation menu to view highlighted projects, many of which link to climate change and adaptation.
The Forest Assisted Migration Project is a partnership with UMN and the Nature Conservancy (see list of partners at the bottom of the page) to support the retention of climate adapted Northern boreal forests in Minnesota.
The Forever Green Partnership is a multi-sector partnership working to advance year-round productive living cover or "Continuous Living Cover" on farmland. The Partnership unites members from private, public, and advocacy sectors around a common interest in increasing "Continuous Living Cover" in agriculture to capitalize on its many economic and environmental benefits.
Commitment to a carbon neutral university
The University of Minnesota is a signatory to the Second Nature Carbon Commitment and our Morris campus is a signatory to the Second Nature Climate Commitment. Both commitments require the development of carbon neutral targets for Scopes 1 and 2, and Scope 3 air travel and commuting. Collectively, the University has established a target date of 2050 for carbon neutrality across these scopes. Individual campuses may have earlier dates.