Goldsmiths bans beef burgers as it declares ‘Climate Emergency’

Pictured: Goldsmiths' new warden Professor Frances Corner (L) speaking to allotment coordinator and senior lecturer for fine arts Dr Ros Gray (R). Image: Goldsmiths

The University’s new warden, Professor Frances Corner, made the ‘Climate Emergency’ declaration today (12 August) in one of her first moves since taking up the title, which is often referred to as vice-chancellor at other higher education establishments. 

The declaration commits the University, in Lewisham, South London, to becoming a carbon-neutral organisation by 2025.

In order to reach this target, Goldsmiths will switch to 100% renewable energy, sourced partly through third-party contracts and partly through on-site solar generation. Goldsmiths already generates 107,000 KWh of renewable electricity annually in this way.

The University will also continue to invest in identifying areas where planting and habitat creation or restoration could absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Further measures for achieving carbon-neutrality will be developed after a consultation with staff and the student unions.

To complement the University’s new carbon-neutral vision, Corner has introduced a ban on the sale of beef products from campus outlets, due to come into effect at the start of the new academic year next month. She has additionally moved to add a 10p levy to bottled water and single-use plastic cups sold on campus, with funds raised in this way to be earmarked for a green student behaviour change scheme.

“Though I have only just arrived at Goldsmiths, it is immediately obvious that our staff and students care passionately about the future of our environment and that they are determined to help deliver the step change we need to cut our carbon footprint drastically and as quickly as possible,” Corner said.

“Declaring a climate emergency cannot be empty words. I truly believe we face a defining moment in global history and Goldsmiths now stands shoulder to shoulder with other organisations willing to call the alarm and take urgent action to cut carbon use.”

In her concluding statement, Corner was likely referring to the fact that bodies representing more than 7,000 universities across the world have now declared a ‘Climate Emergency’. Similar declarations have also been made by the likes of Tate, Ecotricity and numerous local authorities

Divestment drive

Corner is a well-known figure in the green economy, having worked tirelessly for more than two decades to champion sustainability in the fashion and academic sector.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, she has also pledged that, by 1 December, Goldsmiths’ endowment fund will have divested entirely from companies which generate more than 10% of their revenue from fossil fuels.

The move comes shortly after the University of Cambridge agreed to provide fully costed plans setting out how it could divest multibillion-pound endowments from fossil fuel corporations.

More broadly, 24 of the world’s largest investors are believed have collectively excluded coal from $6trn in assets over the past three years, as the trend towards divestment from carbon-heavy projects and products continues.

Sarah George

Comments (2)

  1. Dave Stanley says:

    Might I suggest that banning beef is a good example of ill informed tokenism? Had there been a better understanding of the science then Goldsmiths might have appreciated the difference between those greenhouse gases that are part of the natural carbon cycle, and those that result from human activities and the associated burning of fossil fuels and ecosystem degradation. That this might be understandable as it was also reported that Goldsmiths have declined to make Climate Change a compulsory component of their degree courses.
    If students at Goldsmiths were serious about significantly reducing their climate change impacts, the first activity to be addressed is that of flying. A fundamental point that the wonderful Greta understands and is currently winging across the Atlantic at sea level. But instead ban a beef burger!
    We might look forward to an announcement from Goldsmiths about them banning students from flying?

  2. Ken Pollock says:

    Perhaps Professor Corner would like to read Patrick Holden in today’s Daily Telegraph to find out how short-sighted this move is. Holden is one of the best known advocates of organic farming and clearly demonstrates that most British beef is produced off permanent grassland that either could not be used for arable crops or if it was then it would produce far more CO2 which she seems to think is damaging the planet. Given that it is essential for all life, I hope she does not espouse the mad categorisation by the US Environmental Protection Agency of CO2 as a "pollutant". One might just as well call water vapour a pollutant.
    And this is a university where we expect our best and brightest to distinguish between fact and fiction???

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