English universities fall further behind carbon reduction target

London Metropolitan University leads the sector for overall decrease

September 24, 2015
carbon emissions divestment
Source: iStock

The English higher education sector is further from achieving its 2020 emissions reduction target than it was last year, a report has found.

The University Carbon Progress Report – England, published by sustainability consultancy Brite Green, finds that absolute carbon emissions for the higher education sector increased for the first time since 2010, rising by more than 14,500 tonnes year-on-year.

According to the report’s forecasts, higher education institutions will achieve only a 12 per cent reduction in absolute carbon emissions by 2020. As part of commitments detailed in the Climate Change Act 2008, the Higher Education Funding Council for England set a 43 per cent reduction target for the sector.

Of the 127 English universities analysed, only three are projected to be on track to meet their carbon reduction targets, while 28 institutions could exceed their targets.

“There is a clear tension between carbon performance and commercial growth, and growth is winning out as policy is currently failing to ensure accountability for performance against targets and provide effective market and policy signals,” Darren Chadwick, managing partner at Brite Green, told Times Higher Education. “The very institutions who are providing the evidence of climate change should be the loudest proponents of effective policy and investment in low carbon technology.”

London Metropolitan University was the sector leader in reduction, having overseen a decrease in absolute emissions of more than 51 per cent between 2005 and 2013-14. Rachel Ward, sustainability manager at London Met, said the achievement was the result of four years’ hard work by “every part of the university”.

“We’re immensely proud of our efforts to reduce the university’s emissions,” she said. “We’re not complacent, however, and have some big plans for our future.

“This year we’re utilising renewable energy for ourselves for the first time by installing solar panels on our Science Centre, reviewing lighting across the institution, and managing a project to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings.”

Iain Patton, chief executive of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges, said Brite Green’s findings outlined the “dilemma” the sector faces in meeting carbon reduction targets while driving commercial growth.

“An independent light being shone on us may be uncomfortable but it’s vital,” he said. “It’s time to look again at investing in carbon reduction, and universities should review their carbon management plans to ensure they are doing all they can to reduce their impacts.”

john.elmes@tesglobal.com

Access the Brite Green results in full

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard