The University has published its 2021 Annual Carbon Report, which details institutional carbon emissions for 2019/20 and explores the organisation’s response to the climate emergency up to March 2021.

The report shows that the University successfully met, and slightly exceeded, a 10-year goal set out in the University’s original 2011 Carbon Management Plan to reduce direct Scope 1 and 2 CO2 emissions (due to electricity and gas use) by 43% by 2020, from a 2005 baseline.

In total there was actually a 45% reduction, despite a period of significant growth for the University’s community and physical infrastructure. The reduction is due to ongoing work across the University estate to reduce energy demand, combined with a national fall in the carbon intensity of electricity.

Between 2018/19 and 2019/20 scope 1 and 2 CO2 emissions dropped by 15.3%. Of this 7.5% was due to changes in the carbon intensity of the UK Electricity Grid, with the remainder due to a reduction in consumption, partly due to Covid-19 lockdowns and other restrictions.

The 2021 report also covers a period before and after the adoption of the Climate Action Framework Principles (May 2020) and establishment of the Climate Action Team (March 2021). It replaces the previous annual Energy and Environment Report.

Peter Phelps, Climate Action Project Lead, said:

“In summary, this is a good news story – we have achieved our previous carbon targets and have reduced our energy use by over a £1m a year despite significant growth in the University. But there remains a massive task ahead – the easy things have been done, and our new carbon targets are challenging, and require a real step change in effort and approach. However, we have a real opportunity – the University has embraced the concept of ‘whole institution’ change, and our approach is about so much more than carbon targets – it is also about our core business of research and teaching, and we have the ambition to be an exemplar in addressing climate change across the whole sector."

The University’s carbon targets are challenging and commensurate with the timescales required to address the Climate Emergency:

They include:

  • Being Net Zero Carbon in scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030.

  • A 50% reduction in scope 3 emissions by 2030.

  • Being Net Zero Carbon in its scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 2040.

Scope 3 emissions make up more than 75% of the University’s overall carbon footprint, partly due to travel, but mostly due to the procurement of goods and services and the carbon emissions embodied in these. A key focus for the Climate Action Team in 2021 is therefore to establish an accurate scope 3 baseline and developing our reduction plans.

In adopting the CAF Principles, we have not only committed to our net zero targets but also to a whole institution response considering the impacts of our core mission, research, learning and teaching and engaging with our community and initiatives to address climate action in our region. The Climate Action Team is now established and working to deliver across these themes.