UK universities and colleges need to commit to and deliver ambitious carbon reduction targets to tackle the climate emergency.
At the 2020 NUS conference, 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.
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.
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.
The dataset for this work is based on a snapshot assessment conducted in 2022, collating UK university and college carbon reduction targets to help see which institutions are committing to reduce their carbon emissions in their efforts to take action against the climate emergency. If you are a representative of an institution which has updated its targets since our assessment, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org who will be able to update the information for you.
We need your help! If you are a staff or student at college or university, get in contact with your Estates, Environment or Sustainability team and ask them to complete our survey.