Cambridge will significantly reduce its emissions from a 2005 baseline by 2020 and aim for carbon-neutral status by 2050, according to its Environmental Sustainability Vision released yesterday (6 August).

The University has set aside a carbon reduction budget of £2m per year and will work across a number of performance indicators, including overall energy use, carbon from water use and carbon emissions per staff and student.

Cambridge steadily increased its CO2 emissions from 2005 to the end of the decade due to significant growth within the university. The 2005 baseline for reductions represents total CO2 emissions of more than 71,000 tonnes of CO2.

Water management is also high on the agenda in Cambridge’s sustainability strategy; the university’s report – The Green Cambridge Challenge: Environmental Sustainability Vision – outlines aims for a 20% reduction in water consumption by 2020 from a 2005 baseline.

The University’s report set out waste reduction targets, aiming to send zero non-hazardous waste to landfill by 2020 and to recycle at least 95% of total waste produced at the university by 2016.

Although the goals are for the University of Cambridge, the 31 independent university colleges are not counted in the targets, but are expected to work with Cambridge in achieving reductions.

Graduate skills

Cambridge University vice-chancellor professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz said the University had a duty to ensure its graduates had skills to ensure future sustainability.

“Much of our research contributes significantly to understanding and solving the environmental sustainability challenges faced by society,” said Borysiewicz in his forward to the report. “In addition, we have a responsibility to ensure that all our graduates have the skills, knowledge and understanding to contribute to a sustainable world.”

Borysiewicz said Cambridge’s goals were ambitious but were necessary for long-term benefits and the reputational risk of poor environmental performance.

He said: “Our new approach resonates with Cambridge’s multi-century scale vision and provides a focus for action and decision-making. Our performance needs to be benchmarked against peer institutions nationally and internationally.”

Sustainability leaders

Cambridge previously came 100th in the Brite Green university carbon rankings after seeing increases in emissions from 2005 to 2013, but the University argues in its Carbon Management Report released in 2010 that growth in the University had led to these increases.

The new sustainability plan comes at a time when green reputation is ever more important to staff and students at universities around the UK.

Universities and environmentally-conscious students are some of the leading advocates of fossil fuel divestment campaigns, which call on universities to end investments in polluting coal, oil and gas industries.

Warwick University recently followed the example of Edinburgh University and Oxford in ending announcing the end of many of its fossil fuel investments following a campaign of direct action and protests by students. 

Reading University also recently featured in Edie’s Sustainability Leaders Awards, winning the 2014 award for energy efficiency after realising more than £90,000 of annual savings.

Matt Field

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