Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK), alongside the National Union of Students (NUS), the University and College Union (UCU) and People & Planet (P&P) are calling for ambitious carbon reduction targets to take action on the climate emergency and ecological crisis.
We know that in order to have any hope of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees we need to commit to and start delivering these ambitious targets by the end of the academic year (2020/21).
We've collated UK university and college carbon reduction targets to view and compare across the sector. Targets are scored based on the ambition, and we will develop the resource at a future date to score based on progress and implementation. Check out our scoring methodology.
We have articulated a suitable goal for the sector to support institutions to develop targets. However, this is not a prescription, and we would expect individual targets to be developed in consultation with students and staff, and justifiable to their own university community. Where there are targets, we have linked institutions sustainability or general webpages to find out more information.
How is the sector doing?
Last updated October 2020
Students want action
At NUS conference last year, students passed a policy calling on UK universities and colleges to declare and act on the climate emergency. The policy mandated NUS and SOS-UK to "research and publish every university and college’s carbon reduction plans and compare them like for like [and] support student campaigners and officers and laggard institutions to call for their institutions to commit to being net-zero by 2030."
NUS Conference is the biggest democratic gathering of students in the world, and the elected delegates that attend represent the interest of 7 million students in tertiary education in the UK.
A suitably ambitious goal for the sector
To tackle the climate emergency and ecological crisis, we believe UK universities and colleges should publicly commit to being net zero emissions for scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2030.
Within 12 months of this commitment, institutions should have developed a fully-costed, comprehensive action plan showing the planned emission reduction curve.
Targets should be set by the end of the 2020/21 academic year and action plans published by the end of the 2021/22 academic year.
For this project, scope 3 includes water supply and waste water treatment, waste collection and management, business travel, staff commuting, student travel, procurement, endowment investments and agricultural landholdings.
Institutions should plan to restrict the use of offsetting to scope 3 emissions that are not currently viable to eliminate. Offsets should be procured through credible schemes, such as Gold standard-accredited schemes or locally-developed alternatives, and institutions should commit to a reasonable minimum offset price.
Offsetting should not be used as a way for institutions to shift the burden of their emissions whilst continuing business as usual in the UK. The social impact, as well as the credibility of carbon savings, of offsetting schemes should be comprehensively considered.
Universities and colleges should develop robust plans to increase biodiversity net gain on campus. All institutions should conduct baseline and ongoing ecological surveys to monitor biodiversity net gain.
Are you working on carbon reduction at a UK university or college?
We are constantly updating our data from across the sector. If you are working on carbon reduction at a UK university or college and would like us to update or change your data, please fill out this quick survey.
Register your interest in the carbon targets campaign by filling in this quick form, and we'll keep in touch with any events and updates.