Top universities for climate action

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

April 21 2021
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 to hit zero carbon emissions, refitting buildings to be more energy efficient and arming students with the knowledge and skills to make individual changes.

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

As part of the 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 governments to address climate change planning. You can read more about the methodology here.

Top five universities for climate action

1. University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo has created a “10 in 10” strategy, which outlines 10 easy-to-follow steps to increase climate change action at the institution and to work towards net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Some of these steps include reducing food-related carbon emissions by half in 2030, encouraging students and staff to switch off electrical devices to eliminate energy-wasting behaviours and developing zero-carbon commuting pathways for the campus community.

The university also holds a Sustainability Month in April. This combines month-long challenges (such as a step challenge and gardening challenge) with talks and sessions from experts in the sustainability and diversity space.

2. Miguel Hernández University of Elche

Miguel Hernández University of Elche is among nine Spanish universities to have registered their carbon footprint with the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment.

Students are able to get involved in the #EcoInfluencer programme, which encourages students to raise awareness of environmental problems and our impact on the planet and to undertake training in how to be more sustainable.

3. University of British Columbia

Since 2010, the University of British Columbia has had in place a plan 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 in which students across disciplines can discuss sustainability issues. The forum is part book club, part lecture series.

UBC 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.

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4. Arizona State University (Tempe)

Arizona State University’s College of Global Futures aims to give students the opportunity to make a long-term impact. Students can enrol on courses that focus on sustainability and innovation. The institution also partners with community businesses and organisations to provide undergraduate and postgraduate research opportunities and internships.

Sustainability Connect is a platform that enables students to connect with sustainability projects and internships in the university and the wider community.

The university also achieved zero greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations in 2019, six years before its promised date of 2025.

=5. Comillas Pontifical University

Students at Comillas Pontifical University can take part in Comillas Solidaria, a programme that enables students to take part in volunteering work in Spain and around the world to work with local communities.

=5. University of Dundee

The University of Dundee offers a wide range of courses for students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level around sustainability, climate action and responsible consumption.

The university has also established an Environment Task Group, which has developed and implemented the university’s environment policy. It is made up of students and staff and has a range of targets that they have agreed to meet. These include reducing the use of energy and utilities, promoting biodiversity on campus and improving the efficiency of the waste management systems.

The top universities for climate action 2021: top 100


Climate action rank 2021 University Country/region
1 University at Buffalo United States
2 Miguel Hernández University of Elche Spain
3 University of British Columbia Canada
4 Arizona State University (Tempe) United States
=5 Comillas Pontifical University Spain
=5 University of Dundee  United Kingdom
=7 KTH Royal Institute of Technology Sweden
=7 Simon Fraser University Canada
9 University of Tasmania Australia
10 Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology LUT Finland
11 Université Laval Canada
12 University of Almería Spain
=13 Autonomous University of Barcelona  Spain
=13 Concordia University Canada
=15 Bournemouth University United Kingdom
=15 University of Gothenburg Sweden
16 University of Victoria Canada
17 Western Sydney University Australia
18 University of Rovira i Virgili Spain
19 University of Bergen Norway
20 King’s College London United Kingdom
21 Tongji University China
22 Polytechnic University of Valencia Spain
23 Polytechnic University of Catalonia Spain
24 University of Agriculture, Faisalabad Pakistan
25 Wageningen University & Research Netherlands
26 Free University of Berlin Germany
27 Modul University Vienna Austria
28 Bauman Moscow State Technical University Russian Federation
29 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Netherlands
30 University of Coimbra Portugal
31 Massey University New Zealand
32 Tohoku University Japan
33 Nove de Julho University Brazil
34 Cardiff University United Kingdom
=35 Lincoln University  New Zealand
37 Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States
38 Technical University of Madrid Spain
39 Kafrelsheikh University Egypt
40 Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand
41 University of São Paulo Brazil
42 Bath Spa University United Kingdom
=43 Diponegoro University Indonesia
=43 Newcastle University United Kingdom
=45 Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University Russian Federation
=45 University of the Sunshine Coast Australia
47 EAFIT University Colombia
48 Manchester Metropolitan University United Kingdom
49 University of Turku Finland
50 Kuwait University Kuwait
51 University of Eastern Finland Finland
=52 Aix-Marseille University France
=52 Pontifical Bolivarian University (UPB) – Medellín Colombia
54 Abdullah Gül University Turkey
55 IMT Atlantique France
56 Charles Sturt University Australia
57 University of Newcastle Australia
58 University of Surrey United Kingdom
59 Tampere University Finland
60 University of Waterloo Canada
61 University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
62 University of Malaya Malaysia
63 Trinity College Dublin Republic of Ireland
=64 University of Canterbury  New Zealand
=64 Riga Technical University Latvia
66 University of Leeds United Kingdom
67 Northumbria University United Kingdom
=68 Monterrey Institute of Technology Mexico
70 University Rey Juan Carlos Spain
71 Iran University of Medical Sciences Iran
=72 Edith Cowan University Australia
=72 University of Geneva Switzerland
=74 Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) Brazil
=74 University of Neuchâtel Switzerland
=74 Queen’s University Canada
77 University of L’Aquila Italy
78 University of Otago New Zealand
=79 University of Liverpool  United Kingdom
=79 Pompeu Fabra University Spain
=81 University of Bordeaux France
=81 JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research  India
=81 University of Manchester United Kingdom
84 La Trobe University Australia
85 Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris France
86 Pontifical Catholic University of Chile Chile
87 National Chung Hsing University Taiwan
=88 Maastricht University Netherlands
=88 Polytechnic University of Turin Italy
90 RMIT University Australia
91 King Abdulaziz University Saudi Arabia
91 University of Reading United Kingdom
=92 Federal University of Espírito Santo Brazil
=92 University of Jyväskylä Finland
94 McGill University Canada
95 Hashemite University Jordan
=96 Erciyes University Turkey
=96 University of Iceland Iceland
=98 EAN University  Colombia
=98 University College Cork Republic of Ireland 
=100 University of Algarve Portugal
=100 Portland State University United States
=100 State University of New York Albany United States

View the full ranking for climate action here

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