Why the University of London is crowdsourcing a zero-carbon target

EXCLUSIVE: The University of London is working on a full environmental strategy that will enable the campus to reach zero carbon emissions by 2036. To get there, it has called on leading universities to deliver a range of ideas and technologies as part of a "crowdsourcing" event.

As noted in the University’s latest sustainability update, carbon emissions have been reduced by 47% since 2010 - surpassing a 43% target almost two years early

As noted in the University’s latest sustainability update, carbon emissions have been reduced by 47% since 2010 - surpassing a 43% target almost two years early

The University of London will crowdsource a new zero-emissions programme, covering its operations and built environment, with the aim of reaching zero carbon emissions by 2036. The University is “laying down the gauntlet” to a range of experts across the areas of green architecture, engineering and design to realise this ambition.

Decision makers from more than 30 UK universities will all meet on 12 October to outline blueprints for the strategy, which will then be shared in a report summarising all the discussions from the day.

Speaking exclusively to edie, the University of London’s sustainability projects lead Matt Wilkinson clarified that the event will act as a source of inspiration for the University to create a carbon strategy based on “real-world difficulties” that UK universities are faced with.

“In terms of the technologies, we’re hoping for a wide range of options to be discussed. We’ve invited a broad range of architects, designers, consultants and evaluation professionals and are happy to hear about any solutions they can offer or have experience of,” Wilkinson said. “Our hope it for a very wide range of technologies to be discussed so as to inspire our strategy and the work of the other universities who attend.

"We don’t currently intend to set strict parameters for the discussions. However, we’re planning for several universities to present on the real-world difficulties they’ve faced with their own projects and we will present the University of London’s Master Plan which outlines the development plans for the university up to 2036. As the plan will be carried out over the next 18 years we don’t intend to ask plans to stick to a specific budget.”

The University of London confirmed that it is working on a wider strategy covering travel, waste, biodiversity, supply chains, procurement and food waste, but that the crowdsourcing event will originally focus on decarbonising, renovating and retrofitting the University’s building stock. No specific plans are in place to crowdsource other aspects of the strategy yet.

As noted in the University’s latest sustainability update, carbon emissions have been reduced by 47% since 2010 - surpassing a 43% target almost two years early. An 80% reduction goal has also been lined up for 2050. The University also sources 100% of its energy needs from renewables.

Shared learnings

The forthcoming report will include a directory of services covering each attending professional, listing the services they can provide and their contact details. The report will be made available to the 300+ members of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EUAC) – the member association for university sustainability – enabling others to explore low-carbon technologies.

Wilkinson noted that the aim of the report was to inspire other universities to accelerate progress towards carbon commitments. 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 of 43%.

“Our overall aim is to gain and share inspiration,” Wilkinson said. “Following the day, we will bring all of the discussions, and presented solutions together into a report which we will share externally to inspire other establishments and give them an idea all the options there are out there to reduce carbon on their campuses.

“Internally, we will look at all the different solutions offered and use them to inspire the carbon reduction element of our environmental sustainability strategy. As yet we don’t have a deadline for our strategy but would expect for it to be finalised in the first half of next year at which point we intend to share it among interested parties and networks.”

Matt Mace


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