According to research released by sustainability consultancy Brite Green, English universities have made steps forward in reducing carbon emissions in the academic year ending in 2015. However, targets in this sector are unlikely to be met.
Higher education emissions dropped in 2014/15 but still remain well above the target figures. The higher education sector in England has improved its carbon emissions reduction performance compared to last year, but it is still off track to achieve the 2020 targets. According to projections, if emissions continue to fall at the current rate, the sector will achieve a 15% reduction by 2020 from the 2005 baseline. This is still far from the 43% HEFCE target , established to help meet the UK’s carbon reduction commitment set out in the Climate Change Act 2008 , and the self – imposed 37% emissions reduction average target for all institutions.
In the third annual University Carbon Progress Report, Brite Green analysed publicly available data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and HEFCE . Institutions were able to review data to ensure it is accurate and applicable. To strengthen efforts in providing relevant data and supporting practitioners, this year B rite Green also survey ed energy managers and carried out detailed stakeholder interviews to analyse challenges, opportunities and best practices in carbon management.
The most recent data show absolute emissions reductions achieved to date of 10% in 10 years. At the same time, 71% of universities are set to miss their own 2020 targets. This is still a slight improvement from last year’s analysis, with an additional 3% reduction compared to 2013/14.
Brite Green Managing Partner Darren Chadwick states:
“Universities have reached a significant milestone this year having achieved an overall reduction in emissions of 10% from 2005, against a background of significant commercial growth”
Only 30% of universities are on track to meet their carbon targets.
Of the 12 6 institutions analysed only 37 are on track to meet or exceed their targets, a slight improvement from 2013/14. The report also reveals that there is a large gap between top and bottom performers across all carbon metrics. The top ten performers, led by SOAS University of London, have all achieved absolute emission reductions of more than 38% from the 2005 baseline. Like last year, the bottom performers continue to move further away from their targets.
Commercial growth, weakening policy and post – Brexit uncertainty are key factors in poor carbon performance
Commercial growth continues to be one of the most significant challenges faced by institutions when trying to achieve absolute emissions reductions. This year, energy managers also highlighted that political uncertainty – particularly post-Brexit – has become another significant challenge.
UK carbon targets and the Paris Agreement frame the need for better results
The UK’s legally binding carbon targets together with China and the USA’s recent announce ment that
they will ratify the Paris Agreement on carbon emissions mean that more is needed to match climate
action with policy objectives.
Universities have started to implement broader sustainability strategies
Amidst setbacks, universities continue to implement effective carbon reduction strategies and are now moving towards a more rounded approach to sustainability management across each institution. Carbon reduction challenges are being tackled by broader sustainability programmes and cross-department al collaboration.
Across the board most universities still have aspirations to grow research and student
numbers so it makes carbon reduction very tough
Universities are improving efficiency
The majority of institutions have continued to improve efficiency, both in relation to revenue and floor
space. Since 2008, university emissions intensity has fallen by 33% when measured against income
(£) and 16% when measured against floor area (m2).
“Regardless of our sector target I still feel like any absolute reduction in a growing sector/business is
impressive. Across the board most universities still have aspirations to grow research and student
numbers so it makes carbon reduction very tough ” notes Iain Patton, Chief Executive of EAUC .
Brite Green is consolidating itself as a leading advisory firm for the sector
In its third year, the report has provided the opportunity for Brite Green to consolidate itself as a leading resource for carbon management in the higher education sector. Our research is used across the sector to design and evaluate carbon management strategies, and we have worked with universities to develop and improve all aspe cts of their sustainability performance.
According to Darren Chadwick, Managing Partner at Brite Green:
“A lot of great work has been done in the sector to tackle carbon emissions but progress to date highlights the need for better national collaboration. We have published a good practice guide this year to showcase the best practice at the institution level, but there is a real need for better policy and low-carbon infrastructure at the national level to help achieve our carbon reduction targets.”
Lots of resources are available for universities
Brite Green provides a detailed report on sector performance and individual reports for each institution free of charge. We have also published a good practice guide that includes practical insight and case studies from practitioners from across the UK.
Download the good practice guide from the Brite Green website
Brite Green is also offering free consultation to universities to identify areas for improvement in their
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