British universities show commitment to ‘safeguard the climate’

The University for the Creative Arts (UCA) has reportedly reduced its carbon footprint by more than a third, while the University of Bristol has divested all investments in carbon-intensive sectors.

UCA’s 37% reduction means the institution has reached its 2020 target three years early. It was made possible by the introduction of 26 clean energy projects, including the installation of more efficient space and water heating, lighting and control systems.

Last year, EV charge points were installed at UCA’s Farnham and Rochester campuses. Solar panels installed Farnham’s new administrative building, Hopfield House, are expected to deliver around a fifth of the structure’s energy needs.

UCA sustainability officer Scott Keiller said: “Since establishing targets to significantly reduce our emissions in 2010, we have worked incredibly hard to achieve the savings we are now observing.

“Reaching our absolute emissions reduction target for 2019/20 in the 2016/17 year – a saving equivalent to cutting annual emissions of 560 average UK households – is testament to the commitment of the University to safeguard the climate for present and future generations.” 

UCA is home to the Centre for Sustainable Design – which leads in a range of research projects, conferences, workshops and training courses focused on sustainable innovation.

Educated divestments

Last year, UCA joined a growing number of UK universities in declaring that it has no direct investment in companies involved in the carbon energy industry, including those involved in extracting fossil fuels.

On Friday (2 February), the University of Bristol became the latest member of this group, announcing it has divested all investments in companies that derive more than 5% of their incomes from the most carbon-intensive sectors of the fossil fuel industry.

As part of the new policy, the University has employed a new fund manager, Rathbone Greenbank Investments, which only manages socially and environmentally responsible investments.

“Our aim was to end investment in companies that derive more than 5% of their turnover from the extraction of thermal coal or oil and gas from tar sands by January 2018,” University of Bristol chief financial officer Robert Kerse said.

“I am very pleased that we have achieved this aim which supports the University’s strong commitment to sustainability and fighting climate change.”

Living laboratory

The University said that it has also been actively managing the wider impact of its Endowment Fund investments on climate change. Embedded carbon in fossil fuel reserves associated with these investments have reportedly fallen by 78% over the past nine months from 280,742 tonnes to 62,289 tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG).

Last year, English universities achieved their best year-on-year reduction in carbon emissions to date, although an annual 7% reduction is unlikely to put the sector on track to meet a 2020 carbon reduction target.

This month has seen almost 1,500 solar panels installed at the University of Cambridge’s new 150-hectare district, with the array expected to slash energy usage by more than 298MWh a year. Meanwhile, Siemens has been appointed to transform Keele University campus into the largest integrated, living laboratory for smart energy, gas and heating technologies.

George Ogleby

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