Illustration by Joe Lai.
Illustration by Joe Lai.

Fourth-year Antonio Bautista is on a climate-changing mission. Bautista, an environmental studies major, is the climate action intern for the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program (CUIP) and is one of three undergraduate student members of the Chancellor’s Council on Climate Action. 

This council, which is composed of faculty, administrators and students, recently released the first-ever draft of the Climate Action Plan, which outlines UCSC’s commitment to reduce its carbon emissions in the coming decade. 

Bautista is rallying to get students to both read the plan and submit their comments and feedback to the council for revision during the public comment period, which extends until May 8.

The plan takes inventory of the university’s current greenhouse gas emission levels, which are at roughly 79,726 metric tons of CO2 equivalents. The plan aims for that figure to drop 2,000 levels by 2014, eliminating over 14,000 metric tons of CO2 in the process. With other milestones along the way, the ultimate goal is a carbon-neutral campus.

Bautista spoke with City on a Hill Press to explain the campus’s carbon forecast and how the plan hopes to achieve it. 


CHP: How did the process of making a climate plan for the university begin?

AB: The chancellor signed on to what is called the American College and University Presidential Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). When you agree to that, you agree to create a climate action plan. It was a student, though, who first went to the chancellor and bugged him by saying, “When will you agree to do a climate action plan? Because we haven’t done it and we need to do it now.”

From that, the chancellor went ahead and created the Chancellor’s Council on Climate Action and approached Daniel Press, chair of the environmental studies department. As the chair of the climate council, [Press] got everyone together on a task force, including Larry Pageler from Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS), Alan Spearot from the economics department, Ali Shakouri from the engineering department and three student interns, among others. 

The plan sets forth ambitious goals. How are they going to be implemented?

The Climate Action Plan outlines some of the methods, including putting solar panels on facilities here and doing more energy efficiency projects. It also focuses on trying to change the mobile ridership on campus by introducing more bike paths and bike shuttles to use those kinds of methods to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Why is student input and feedback about the Climate Action Plan so important?

Basically, right now the Climate Action Plan is just a document. It could easily just become another document with no importance. The administration needs to know that students are interested in this and support it and that they’re going to be the watchdogs. We’ll read all the student comments we receive and then incorporate all the useful ones into the official Climate Action Plan. If students aren’t vocal about its implementation, it will be weak. Especially because of the budget cuts right now, sustainability isn’t a priority.

In your opinion, what’s missing from the Climate Action Plan?

We’ve developed some of the clear paths that we’re going to take to achieve our greenhouse gas emission quotas. … Also, it clearly outlines that energy efficiency is going to be one of the routes by which we’re going to achieve a reduction in emissions. 

What’s missing from the energy efficiency part of the plan is the how. What projects are going to be undertaken and when? How much are they going to cost? It clearly lists energy efficiency as one of the routes to get us to cut down our emissions, but it doesn’t say how we’re going to do it.

Another component that is missing is behavioral changes, which would include anything from teaching students how to reduce their energy and water consumption to really changing their lifestyles. We don’t include anything on that and it clearly needs to be a big part and could be a big cut to emissions.

In a time when our university is experiencing extreme budgetary stress, why is this important?

It’s important to have a clear plan on how we’re going to cut our greenhouse gas emissions. It’s especially important right now, because the United States is figuring out a way to do that too. We’ve gone from really debating if global warming is a problem to saying that it definitely is. We need a document that involves every student and that every student knows how to participate in.

How supportive has Chancellor Blumenthal been throughout this process?

He supports it, but he hasn’t supported it in the way it matters, and that’s the implementation side of things. In order to get to that point [of implementation] we need to know that the money is going to be available. The source of funding is for the chancellor to figure out, but we’re hoping it comes from his office. Since we’ve signed on and committed to reducing our greenhouse gas levels, we have to do it. We’re only as good as our word.