Integrating climate and food policies in higher education: a case study of the University of California

David Arthur Cleveland, Jennifer Ayla Jay
Most climate change mitigation policies, including those of higher education institutions, do not include food system greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE). Yet the food system contributes ∼30% of anthropogenic GHGE, mostly from animal source foods. Food system changes are necessary to meet GHGE mitigation targets and could do so relatively inexpensively and rapidly with major health, social and environmental co-benefits. To estimate the potential impact of integrating higher education institution
more » ... mate and food policies, we used the case of the University of California (UC), comprising 10 campuses with 280,000 students. The UC is a leader in climate and food research, and has major policy initiatives for mitigating climate change and for promoting healthy, sustainable food systems. Like most higher education institutions, the UC climate change mitigation target for 2025 covers only Scope 1 and 2 GHGE (campus-generated and purchased energy), yet Scope 3 GHGE (indirect, including food system) are often institutions' largest. We created scenarios using results of studies of US dietary changes, and existing, planned or potential UC food system changes. These scenarios could reduce UC Scope 3 food emissions by 42–55%, equivalent to 8–9% of UC's targeted energy GHGE reduction, and 19–22% of offsets need to reach that target. These results have implications for broader climate policy in terms of food systems' high GHGE, the health, environmental, economic and social benefits of food system changes, and ways these changes could be implemented. To our knowledge this is one of the first empirical studies of the potential for integrating climate and food policy in HEIs. Key policy insightsMost higher education institution climate policies, including those of the University of California (UC), do not include food system GHGEResearch at higher education institutions makes major contributions to understanding the need to reduce food system GHGE to achieve Paris Agreement goalsHigher education institutions, including UC, ha [...]
doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.12853494.v1 fatcat:46wtjtaacbggnovbtzjyprmmji