Universities pledge to slash emissions in bid to lead UK's low-carbon transition

The Vice Chancellors of five UK universities have signed the Government's Emissions Reduction Pledge in a bid to help accelerate the nation's transition towards a net-zero carbon economy.

The commitment was made late last week by Newcastle University (pictured), Northumbria University, the University of Reading, the University of Winchester and the University of Nottingham

The commitment was made late last week by Newcastle University (pictured), Northumbria University, the University of Reading, the University of Winchester and the University of Nottingham

By signing the pledge, the Vice Chancellors of the University of Reading, University of Winchester, University of Nottingham, Newcastle University and Northumbria University have committed to reducing carbon emissions from their respective organisations by 30% by 2020/2021.

The ambitions, announced late last week as part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Green GB Week campaign, have been set against a 2009/2010 baseline.

“Universities are influential voices in local, regional and national society, so have an important role to play in showing leadership in our collective efforts to tackle climate change,” the Office for Students’ chief executive Nicola Dandridge said.

“Students expect their universities to be taking action on this issue, including by highlighting the impact of unchecked climate change and making sure they are leading by example in reducing their own carbon footprint. These universities are taking important steps to address a problem which will affect us all, and I hope many more universities will consider signing up to the emissions reduction pledge.”

The move sees the universities become the first higher education institutions to sign the pledge, which was launched in July as part of the Clean Growth Strategy.

Sustainable studying

The commitments were made on Thursday (18 October) at an event which was jointly facilitated by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC).

They follow on from the NUS’s campaigns aimed at making higher education more sustainable in recent times, including its “Divest-Invest” scheme, which lobbied for universities across the country to collectively divest more than £100m from fossil fuel projects.

Elsewhere, the confederation of 600 students' unions has been running a behaviour change campaign called “Student Switch Off”, which uses gamification to encourage students to take actions that reduce their energy use. To date, more than 25,000 students have joined the campaign.

The “Student Switch Off” campaign comes as sustainable programme supplier Green Rewards continues to assist universities with employee engagement projects, which recorded 200,000 positive actions last academic year.

Using gamification, the scheme encouraged employees at ten universities to engage in energy saving, sustainable travel, waste reduction and other green actions.

It currently works using an app-based platform that encourages participants to track their positive actions and earn ‘green points’ for their team. The staff that collect the most points using the gamification platform are then made eligible to win vouchers to spend on retailers and charity donations.

Ten universities have signed up to the scheme to date, including the University of StrathclydeBournemouth University and the University of Winchester.

Sarah George


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