University of Sussex targets net-zero emissions by 2035

The University of Sussex has unveiled a new sustainability strategy featuring commitments to bring emissions across all scopes to net-zero by 2035 and to create the UK's "most biodiverse" campus.

University of Sussex targets net-zero emissions by 2035

Pictured: Solar panels installed on student accommodation at the University's campus in Falmer. Image: University of Sussex

Published today (12 July), the Sustainable Sussex strategy outlines new environmental targets for the next 15 years across four key pillars: decarbonising the economy, being ethical educators, working with civic leaders and partners and becoming environmental champions. This latter pillar covers waste, food, water and biodiversity, with a specific focus on the behaviour of the University’s 17,000+ students.

The headline of the ‘decarbonising the economy’ pillar is a commitment to deliver net-zero by 2035 across direct (Scope 1), power-related (Scope 2) and indirect (Scope 3) emissions. Interim targets for 2025 and 2030 will be developed in the near future, with the University striving to achieve accreditation from the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) by August 2023.

Priority actions to reduce emissions include scaling up onsite renewable electricity generation (building on an existing solar farm that is already the largest hosted by a UK university); replacing the campus’s combined heat and power (CHP) plant with a low-carbon alternative by 2026 and assessing the feasibility of a sustainable transport “hub”. This would feature charging for electric vehicles (EVs), scooters and bikes, coupled with a new leasing scheme to help staff switch to EVs and a new sustainable business travel policy.

Energy efficiency improvements are another key focus of this pillar. The University will complete an audit of energy efficiency across its estate in Brighton by the end of the year and upgrade building energy management systems (BEMSs) within 12 months. It will then draw up plans to improve the energy efficiency of the worst-performing buildings, as well as minimum environmental product standards for furnishings and fixtures purchased for the estate.

Also, in recognition of the fact that 60% of the University’s emissions are indirect and generated through purchased goods and services, a new sustainable procurement principles framework will be drawn up. There is a supporting commitment to source at least 80% of the University’s supply of fresh food from local producers, to minimise miles travelled, and to reduce or end the sale of beef and lamb-based meals if students and staff would support such a move.

Other targets detailed in the Sustainable Sussex strategy include reducing the amount of waste produced on a per-student basis by 10% by 2025; reaching a 50% recycling rate by 2025; setting water consumption targets by August 2024 and delivering the UK’s most biodiverse campus.

To this latter point, the University will publish a draft biodiversity policy this summer. There will then be a consultation as to what percentage of the campus land should be set aside for nature, with 30%, 40% and 50% targets floated. Whichever target is selected, the University has promised more bee hotels, butterfly banks, orchards, “passive rewilding” hotspots and gardens designed to enhance visitor wellbeing.

“As COP26 makes clear, we need to build back greener from the Covid-19 pandemic and so now is the time for the University to really renew our already strong sustainability ethos,” Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell said.

“Universities exist to answer the big questions – and there is no bigger question than how we build a sustainable planet. This is the greatest single challenge facing humankind and this strategy puts sustainability right at the heart of everything we do.” 

Net-Zero Tracker

In related news, financial solutions giant MSCI has published the first edition of a new ‘Net-Zero Tracker’ – a tool that compares the climate targets and decarbonisation progress of publicly listed companies across the world. 9,300 companies are included and this cohort is based on the MSCI All Country World Investable Market Index (MSCI ACWI IMI).

The Tracker reveals that the annual emissions of public companies globally are still at the same level as 2013, despite a strong uptick in climate pledges aligned with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory and net-zero by 2050 at the latest.

As such, the private sector is set to breach the entire carbon budget for keeping the global temperature increase to 1.5C within six years, MSCI concludes. The tracker also notes that not all companies included are providing “comprehensive” disclosures of Scope 3 emissions, despite the fact that, for most organisations, indirect emissions will account for the majority of their overall greenhouse gas footprint.

MSCI’s global head of ESG and climate Remy Briand said: “The data in our inaugural Net-Zero Tracker shows the need for a dramatic acceleration in action from the world’s public companies. For those not matching their commitments or lagging, there should be nowhere left to hide.”

MSCI’s hope is that the Tracker will be used to inform decision-making by investors and policymakers.

The Net-Zero Business Barometer from edie

New for 2021, edie’s bi-annual Net-Zero Business Barometer provides a regular temperature check and progress update regarding the decarbonisation of organisations across the UK.

The Barometer is supported by Inspired Energy and based on an in-depth online survey, conducted between June and July 2021, which 161 polled in-house energy and sustainability professionals at organisations of all sizes and sectors to analyse net-zero carbon progress to date and future decarbonisation plans. 

Click here to download your copy of the findings (this is a free report). 

Sarah George

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    Very little to say about the efficient generation of electricity. Renewables do not cover this area, they are time, and quantity, variable, outside our control.
    In this country the only non carbon source of power is nuclear, but too few of those of influence wish to know.
    Storage is exceedingly difficult and expensive.
    There is no substitute for having continuous power on demand, and zero carbon means nuclear.
    Its physics not banking!!!! The latter is to be invoked after the former is established!!!!!
    Richard Phillips

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