This is the year by which the institution aims to reach the above target. The earlier the date, the more ambitious the target.
Scopes are the sectors that the institution's target covers in its target. Scope 1 is emissions from direct activity by the institution, scope 2 is the indirect emissions from energy generation and Scope 3 is all other indirect emissions. The ideal carbon target scope is 1, 2 & 3.
Institutions using a Science based approach - using the Science Based Target Initiative methodology - gain points here as we believe taking a Science based approach will mean the target and accompanying action plan are achievable and effective.
An ideal carbon target is accompanied by a comprehensive action plan that helps ensure this target is met. This should include a planned emission reduction curve.
Targets should be developed alongside input from student and staff representatives. This could be students and/or students' unions, and staff and/or trade unions. This allows key stakeholders to influence ambitious target setting.
Offsetting is a way of compensating for emissions by participating in, or funding, efforts to take carbon out of the atmosphere. Best practice is limiting offsetting to unavoidable scope 3 emissions. Unscored.
Credible offsetting is defined as either using Gold standard-accredited schemes for market based approaches or locally-developed alternatives where carbon is reasonably priced. Unscored.
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.
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