Call for Nominations – Committee on the Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability (PDAD&C #26)

From: Meric Gertler, President
Date: October 20, 2016
Re: Call for Nominations – Committee on the Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability (PDAD&C #26)

In the Administrative Response to the Report of the President’s Advisory Committee on Divestment from Fossil Fuels, I announced a new University-wide Committee on the Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability. Its Terms of Reference are below.

Members of the University community are invited to submit nominations or expressions of interest to serve on the Committee by November 15, 2016. Submissions should be made to:

Susanne Miskimmin
Office of the President & Secretary to the Committee


Terms of Reference

University of Toronto
Committee on the Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability


The severity of the challenge posed by climate change demands that the University of Toronto find ways to align and coordinate its related activities and initiatives, from research and innovation to academic programs to energy consumption through University operations.

Divisional initiative is of fundamental importance in these matters. At the same time, central leadership is crucial in providing a framework for cooperation and collaboration.


The Committee’s mandate is to advise on how this alignment and coordination can be achieved. Among other things, the Committee could:

  • Help raise the profile of U of T’s contributions both within and outside our academic community;
  • Take on a leadership role in organizing University-wide events promoting environment-related research, teaching, and outreach;
  • Facilitate the sharing among divisions of best practices in operational sustainability and environment-related academic planning; and
  • Highlight opportunities to strengthen further the University’s support for faculty and divisional initiatives in relevant fields.

More specifically, the Committee’s mandate is to support the implementation of the commitments made in sections 2, 3, and 4 of the Administrative Response to the President’s Advisory Committee on Divestment from Fossil Fuels (for a list of these commitments, please see the Appendix below).

Three years after the establishment of the Committee the President will create a working group to assess its work and recommend whether it should continue.


As committed in the Administrative Response, the Committee will be chaired by the Presidential Advisor on the Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability.

Its members will be appointed by the President, in consultation with members of the University community.

The members will include:

  • Academic leaders and scholars in relevant fields from across the University’s three campuses;
  • Individuals from each of the following constituencies – teaching staff, non-teaching staff, undergraduate students, graduate students, and alumni; and
  • Three members designated individually by the Vice-President and Provost, the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and the Vice-President, University Operations.

Members will serve terms of up to three (3) years.


The Committee will set an annual agenda, according to its mandate.

Subcommittees may be established to consider items on that agenda, according to the three sets of commitments listed in the Appendix.

In light of its deliberations, when the Committee reaches a consensus on any matter on its agenda, it may make recommendations to the President and the relevant Vice-Presidents.

The full Committee will normally meet at least once per semester.

The Office of the President will provide administrative support to the Committee.

Annual Report

The Committee will submit an annual report to the President, describing its activities over the previous year and the progress of the University in implementing the commitments listed in the Appendix.



From the Administrative Response to the Advisory Committee on Divestment from Fossil Fuels
List of Implementation Commitments in ss 2, 3, and 4


The University as Research Performer and Innovation Catalyst

Seeding Academic Collaborations
  • The Connaught Global Challenge Fund is currently structured to provide one $1-million award annually to support collaborative research and initiatives. In order to increase the seeding of collaborative research efforts, the Connaught committee is considering restructuring the Fund to enable the awarding of more prizes per year, thus potentially increasing the number of interdisciplinary collaborations, including environment- and/or energy-related challenges.
Promoting Undergraduate Student Opportunities and Achievements
  • The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) confirms that our undergraduate students are eager to participate in research and innovation activities outside the classroom. It is important, therefore, that they have access to suitable means to search for specific opportunities, and of course this includes opportunities in the fields of energy and the environment. The offices of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation and the Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education are working together to establish systems that will enable our researchers (and external organizations) to advertise research and innovation opportunities and to enable students to search for specific opportunities and receive notices of new postings.
  • We will continue to support undergraduate student research through the UTEA fund, and we will monitor demand – including demand for research opportunities in fields related to energy and the environment – so that if demand exceeds currently available funding, we can work with academic divisions to pursue additional funding through the University’s budget process.
Collaborating with Industry
  • We will intensify our efforts, in collaboration with academic divisions, to reach out to industry, highlighting our strengths in environment- and energy-related research and innovation. We will also support our faculty members in setting up relevant agreements with industry partners. For example, we will continue to support the establishment and growth of clean-tech firms through strategic networks and partnerships such as the MaRS Cleantech venture services group, which brings together entrepreneurs, investors, policy makers, and corporate partners and advisors to build globally competitive businesses. We will also continue to work with funding partners such as Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) to utilize specialized funding opportunities (including OCE’s new, $74-million initiative to support emissions reductions and clean-tech enterprises).
  • The Vice-President, Research & Innovation, the Vice-President, University Operations, and the Principals of UTM and UTSC will work together to advance the use of U of T’s three campuses as living labs or ‘test beds’ and to increase the number of opportunities for faculty-industry collaboration in research and innovation. (For more detail, see ‘The University as Energy Consumer’, below.)
Mobilizing our Entrepreneurial Community
  • As indicated above, there is a great deal of activity at U of T related to environment- and energy-related entrepreneurship, and one of the distinctive strengths of our innovation ecosystem is the presence of multiple accelerators supporting diverse entrepreneurial perspectives and client groups. We will build on these assets by launching a tri-campus-wide clean-tech challenge. We will treat this initiative as an opportunity to further highlight and celebrate our start-up activity in relevant fields.
Cataloguing and Highlighting U of T Research and Innovation
  • We will update Research and Innovation in Energy & the Environment at the University of Toronto, and develop a mechanism for continuous review of this catalogue. We will expand its scope to reflect current innovation successes both in faculty and student entrepreneurship as well as our social innovation successes. We will also actively promote and communicate our institution-wide strengths in these areas.
Fundraising for Climate-Change Related Research Priorities
  • As the above initiatives result in new and revised academic priorities, and as divisions further define their own academic priorities for climate-change related research initiatives, we will develop associated fundraising priorities through normal academic channels for inclusion within the goals of the Boundless Campaign and campaigns to follow. We anticipate strong engagement and interest from potential donors when such opportunities for philanthropy are articulated.


The University as Educator

$750,000 in Funds Earmarked for Climate-Change Related Research and Education Initiatives

Regarding the Committee’s recommendation to create a ‘Meeting Climate Change Fund’, we will provide $250,000 of earmarked funds for each of the next three academic years (2016–17, 2017–18, and 2018–19) for a range of new initiatives, including some of those mentioned above, to meet emerging demand from faculty members and students. We believe that providing these funds through established and well-known structures will be the most effective way to ensure the desired impact.

The Provost will support the funding of climate change-related initiatives by prioritizing the theme within select programs and encouraging participation from across the academy in developing new research projects and curricular innovations.

The mechanisms through which this commitment will be implemented include:

  • The Provost’s Learning and Education Advancement Fund (LEAF), a recently established fund to support student-centred curricular innovation within and between academic divisions;
  • The Undergraduate Course Development Fund (UCDF), which fosters course partnerships – involving graduate-only divisions, graduate-only departments within multi-department faculties, and second-entry professional divisions and programs – to deliver innovative undergraduate courses in first-entry undergraduate divisions ($25,000 per course);
  • The Online Undergraduate Course Initiative (OUCI), which supports the development of online undergraduate courses in order to increase access for students in first-entry U of T programs, students enrolled at other Ontario universities, and international students who may wish to consider full-time enrolment at U of T ($12,000 per course);
  • The Provostial Undergraduate Research Working Group, which is tasked with expanding undergraduate student awareness of, and access to, faculty-sponsored research opportunities.

The implementation of this commitment will be coordinated by the Office of the Vice-President & Provost and supported, where appropriate, by the Office of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation. Academic leaders in fields related to the environment and climate change will be consulted on an ongoing basis. (For further details, see ‘Coordinating and Promoting Academic Initiatives Across the University’, below.)

Raising the Visibility of Existing Programs and Courses

With the advent of new curricular technology tools, we have the means to provide an accurate, searchable, user-friendly catalogue of courses in the field. The Office of the Vice-President & Provost, in collaboration with the Office of Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration, will complete the development of a tool to enable instructors to tag individual courses according to thematic areas designated by the project sponsors in collaboration with academic divisions. This would include search and catalogue functions for academic administrators, staff, instructors, and students. With such a system in place, it will be significantly easier for our students (and their academic advisors) to identify appropriate courses with a focus on the environment, energy, and sustainability.

Fundraising for Climate-Change Related Education Priorities

As noted in the previous section, additional priorities identified by faculties and divisions for climate-change related academic initiatives will be included in fundraising goals approved by the Provost for the Boundless Campaign and campaigns to follow.


The University as Energy Consumer

Utilities Reduction Revolving Fund (URRF)

We propose to increase the URRF by 50 per cent (from $5 million to $7.5 million), funded by central fund reserves, to expand the number and size of projects undertaken. An infusion of an additional $2.5 million would allow divisions to plan for larger energy-saving retrofits, and could potentially support projects at UTM and UTSC as well.

U of T Energy-Efficiency Standards

University Planning, Design & Construction and Facilities & Services are currently working towards a proposal for significantly enhanced standards of energy efficiency. Our objective is to measure performance against plan, maximize benefit-cost ratio, and account for life-cycle costs and carbon footprint, in order to minimize the overall impact of our operations on climate change.

We will propose the formal adoption of substantially more rigorous energy efficiency standards for capital projects (e.g., ASHRAE 90.1 2013). The discussion will include detailed information regarding costs/NASM (net assignable square metres) for capital construction and building operating costs. The final goal will be quantifiable, and discussions are currently underway with U of T community stakeholders and experts to determine what those goals should be.

Physical Plant as Research ‘Test Bed’

In collaboration with the Vice-President, Research & Innovation portfolio, University Operations reviews proposals for academic and research projects on energy utilization and efficiency involving the University’s physical plant (on the St. George campus). For example, a proposed project involving Engineering students would examine the feasibility of extending the Central Steam Plant’s Sofame flue heat recovery system to include Robarts Library.

We also collaborate with faculty and students to enhance the operational and educational value of our monitoring of actual versus projected performance. Opportunities may exist in upcoming projects with developers and community members. For example, as part of the sustainability strategies planned for the Huron-Sussex neighbourhood development project, the University is considering the installation of a ‘community energy system’ (an extension of our District Energy System). These systems are rare in North America and the addition of such a system would provide a unique opportunity for learning and discovery in sustainable heating and cooling.

We will continue to pursue opportunities to use our physical plant for research, opening such opportunities up to the academy to review, test, and design.

Renewable-Energy Installations

We are currently investigating opportunities for additional PV installations at buildings on the St. George campus, with an estimated potential output of over 1 MW.

We will investigate the potential of other renewable-energy projects, which would not only produce additional power in a sustainable way, but could also serve as test sites for research. While opening conversations have been held with affected faculties, any such projects would require further evaluation and consultation.