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A new strategy published today demonstrates higher education’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions. Universities and colleges have a key role to play in tackling climate change. They have the opportunity and responsibility to lead through their teaching and research activities as well reducing their campus emissions. The agreed strategy sets out ambitious sector-level targets to reduce scope 1 and 2 emissions (note 2) by 80 per cent by 2050 and by at least 34 per cent by 2020, against a 1990 baseline. Meeting these targets will be challenging and will require commitment, innovation and collaboration. Institutions are called on to contribute to these targets by reducing their own emissions.

Published by HEFCE, Universities UK and GuildHE the strategy secured strong support through consultation (HEFCE 2009/27 Consultation on a carbon reduction target and strategy for higher education in England) and sets our areas where HEFCE will work with higher education institutions (HEIs) and other partners to achieve carbon reductions. It aims to focus efforts in areas that offer the greatest carbon reduction return and identify issues that need further action.

HEIs are required to have carbon management plans and HEFCE will link future capital funding to carbon performance (note 4). To assist institutions we have also published good practice guidance on developing carbon management plans (note 3). This complements existing guidance and sets out what HEFCE's requirements are in this area.

Sir Alan Langlands, HEFCE Chief Executive, said:

'Higher education institutions are in a strong position to make a real difference and many are already reducing their emissions. The targets may be challenging, but by working together, higher education can show leadership in reducing emissions.'

Energy and Climate Change Minister, Joan Ruddock, said:

'Universities and colleges are in an ideal position to lead by example in both cutting emissions and also in educating their students about the dangers of climate change. I am pleased these universities have set out a challenging plan to save energy, this will save them money on fuel costs, and save carbon emissions. The engagement of universities in this agenda will help to build up knowledge to tackle climate change. And of course, those cash savings can ultimately be ploughed back into the education system.'

Professor Steve Smith, President of Universities UK, said:

'There is extensive work already taking place in universities to find solutions to the challenges of sustainable development. This includes educating students about these challenges and, as organisations, managing our own impact on the world. It is a challenging area that will require changes in every part of our activities, but the sector is committed to working together to tackle this. The publication of the joint carbon strategy is an indicator of this commitment, and will be a key document to guide universities in their sustainable development work in the future.'

Professor Ruth Farwell, Chair of GuildHE, said:

'GuildHE members agree that the higher education sector can lead the way on sustainable development and many specialist institutions have specific expertise to offer. The sector can follow its own research output to both exemplify what can be done and develop inventive ideas for more general application. They are well placed to secure the commitment and support of the next generation through energising students in these agendas. The joint carbon strategy evidences our willingness to grapple with this challenge and we look for HEFCE's support to facilitate shared work across the higher education sector.'

Notes

  1. '2010/01' (HEFCE 2010/01).
  2. The World Resource Institute developed a classification of emission sources around three 'scopes':
    • scope 1 emissions are direct emissions that occur from sources owned or controlled by the organisation, for example emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers/furnaces/vehicles
    • scope 2 accounts for emissions from the generation of purchased electricity consumed by the organisation
    • scope 3 covers all other indirect emissions which are a consequence of the activities of the organisation, but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the organisation – for example, commuting and procurement.
  3. 'Carbon management strategies and plan: a guide to good practice' (HEFCE 2010/02).
  4. 'Capital Investment Framework: consultation on the assessment process' (HEFCE 2009/48).