Universities off course on reducing CO2

30th September 2015

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Stanley Rodgers

The UK higher education sector is reducing its carbon emissions too slowly and will miss its 2020 target, according to a progress report from sustainability consultancy Brite Green.

The report, which covers the 2013-14 academic year, reveals that several universities have achieved significant cuts since 2005 whose absolute carbon equivalent emissions are down by 51%. However, total sector emissions were higher in 2013-14 than in the previous year, and Brite Green estimates that universities and colleges will achieve only a 12% reduction by 2020, well short the 43% sector target. The consultancy also says that 76% of universities are not on track to achieve their own carbon targets for 2020, even though 23% have reduced them.

Iain Patton, chief executive at the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges, said: "The findings outline the dilemma the university sector faces in meeting its carbon reduction targets while driving commercial growth."

According to the report, the top 10 ranked institutions have all reduced their carbon footprint by more than 40%. The bottom 10, which includes the University of Cambridge and University College London, all reported an increase, with emissions at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine rising by more than 66%. This year, the Brite Green assessment included emissions per square metre and emissions in relation to income. London Metropolitan was again ranked first, reducing its emissions by more than 54% on both measures since 2008. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, by contrast, increased its emissions by 48% in both categories.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England developed a sector reduction strategy in 2011, which requires institutions to set carbon reduction targets for 2020 and implement carbon management plans.


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