Top universities for climate action

Explore the top 100 universities for climate action, based on data collected as part of the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings

April 3 2019
Best universities for climate action

Warnings from environmentalists about the dangers of climate change have become louder and louder over the past few years. If we don’t drastically cut carbon emissions, there could be serious repercussions for the planet. 

Many universities are providing great examples of how to combat climate change through pledging zero carbon emissions, refitting buildings to be more energy-efficient and arming students with the knowledge and skills to make individual changes. 

The United Nations Sustainable Development goals (SDGs) look to tackle some of today’s biggest global issues and SDG 13 covers climate action. 

As part of the University Impact Rankings, Times Higher Education has produced a ranking focusing on how universities are contributing to climate action. Some of the measures considered as part of the ranking are low carbon energy use, the presence of a university-wide climate action plan, and working with local or national government to address climate change planning. You can read more about the methodology here

Top five universities for climate action

1. University of British Columbia

Since 2010, the University of British Columbia has had a climate action plan in place called Climate Action 2020. Some of the measures laid out in the plan include aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 per cent by 2050, to use the university as a lab to develop climate change solutions and to take full account for the costs of its decisions on sustainability.

The university also organises UBC Reads Sustainability, a forum where students across disciplines can discuss issues on sustainability. The forum is part book club, part lecture series. 

The university has a website dedicated to sustainability, where students can find out more about what the university is doing to be more sustainable, upcoming events, tips on how to be more environmentally friendly and student groups on climate action. 

2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s sustainability programme, the Three Zeros Environment Initiative, was established in 2016. The initiative aims to reduce the campus environmental footprint in three ways: net zero water, zero waste to landfills and net zero greenhouse gases. The university marks its progress across these goals on the programme’s website.

A number of projects are in progress at the university to help achieve these goals. Some of these include low-water fixtures to reduce water waste, providing reusable take-out containers at food outlets and bikes on campus to reduce car usage. 


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3. University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo aims to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 2030. This is part of a wider climate action plan that was put together in 2009 to explore the different ways in which the university could reduce its environmental impact. 

Some of these measures include introducing a car-sharing programme for staff and students and encouraging students to use other modes of transport, to offer students environmentally-themed courses and incorporate sustainability into all courses across the curriculum. 

4. Laval University

As part of its approach to become a more sustainable institution, the University of Laval has introduced several projects to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

These include the design of the university's new sports venue, the TELUS-Université Laval Stadium. Very little air conditioning is used because the design of the building and the large windows facilitate natural ventilation. The stadium is also connected to the university’s weather station so that windows can be closed if a storm is detected.

In some buildings such as the Adrien-Pouliot building, the heating and air conditioning systems were refitted for energy efficiency and results showed a 30 per cent reduction in energy consumption.

5. University of Waterloo

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Climate Change at the University of Waterloo has developed a number of initiatives that involve students in the climate change conversation. 

The Climate Students Group brings together students across study levels and disciplines to discuss and act on climate change. 

Many students on campus are also actively involved in research around climate change, including the impact of climate on coastal tourism, the impact of the mining industry on low and middle income countries and the transmission of malaria in relation to climate change. 


The top universities for climate action 2019: top 100

Climate Action Rank 2019 University Country/region
1 University of British Columbia Canada
2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States
3 University at Buffalo United States
4 Laval University Canada
5 University of Waterloo Canada
6 Kyoto University Japan
7 Newcastle University United Kingdom
8 University of Southampton United Kingdom
9 KTH Royal Institute of Technology Sweden
10 Trinity College Dublin Republic of Ireland
11 University of Helsinki Finland
12 University of Strathclyde United Kingdom
13 King’s College London United Kingdom
14 York University Canada
15 Hong Kong Baptist University Hong Kong
16 Aix-Marseille University France
17 Macquarie University Australia
18 University of Tasmania Australia
19 University of Queensland Australia
20 The University of Tokyo Japan
21 University of Calgary Canada
22 National Taiwan University Taiwan
23 University of Maryland, Baltimore County United States
24 Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University Russian Federation
=25 Bournemouth University United Kingdom
=25 University of Florence Italy
27 Aalto University Finland
28 Dublin City University Republic of Ireland
29 National Central University Taiwan
30 University of Gothenburg Sweden
31 University of L’Aquila Italy
32 Abdullah Gül University Turkey
33 University of Costa Rica Costa Rica
34 École Polytechnique France
=35 Tokyo University of Science Japan
=35 University of Worcester United Kingdom
37 Kazan Federal University Russian Federation
38 Technical University of Loja Ecuador
39 St Petersburg Electrotechnical University (LETI) Russian Federation
40 University of Manchester United Kingdom
41 Autonomous University of Hidalgo State (UAEH) Mexico
=42 Arizona State University United States
=42 Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral Ecuador
=44 American University United States
=44 Monash University Australia
46 National Chung Hsing University Taiwan
47 Altai State University Russian Federation
=48 Aalborg University Denmark
=48 Technical University of Madrid Spain
50 Oregon State University United States
51 McGill University Canada
52 Utsunomiya University Japan
53 New York University United States
54 University of Vigo Spain
55 Universiti Sains Malaysia Malaysia
56 University of Dundee United Kingdom
=57 University of A Coruña Spain
=57 National Autonomous University of Mexico Mexico
59 University of Leicester United Kingdom
60 Emory University United States
61 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Netherlands
62 Ton Duc Thang University Viet Nam
63 University of Valladolid Spain
=64 University of Bergen Norway
=64 Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CULS) Czech Republic
66 University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore Pakistan
67 Sabancı University Turkey
68 Alzahra University Iran
69 City, University of London United Kingdom
70 University of Malaya Malaysia
71 University of Valparaíso Chile
72 Alexandria University Egypt
=73 Chiba University Japan
=73 Mie University Japan
75 Polytechnic University of Valencia Spain
76 Monterrey Institute of Technology  Mexico
76 Tokyo City University Japan
=77 University of Agriculture, Faisalabad Pakistan
=77 University of La Serena Chile
79 Hokkaido University Japan
80 Bogor Agricultural University Indonesia
81 James Cook University Australia
82 Federal University of Ceará (UFC) Brazil
83 TOBB University of Economics and Technology Turkey
=84 University of Brescia Italy
=84 Universitat de Girona Spain
86 Metropolitan Autonomous University Mexico
87 Brunel University London United Kingdom
=88 Clark University United States
=88 King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang Thailand
=88 Yamaguchi University Japan
91 Colorado State University United States
92 University of Malakand Pakistan
=93 Nagaoka University of Technology Japan
=93 Stony Brook University United States
=95 George Washington University United States
=95 Keele University United Kingdom
97 University of Latvia Latvia
98 University College Cork Republic of Ireland
99 National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) Taiwan
=100 Kyung Hee University South Korea
=100 University of the North, Colombia Colombia

Editor's note: this table was updated on 27th June 2019 to reflect changes in the final results

View the full ranking for climate action here 

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