Universities commit to action on climate

Date 20.10.2021

Universities across the UK are throwing their weight behind government aims to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035, as part of efforts to combat the global climate emergency.

Ahead of COP26, 140 universities – including University of Northampton (UON) – have backed a new set of commitments on climate action drawn up by Universities UK, including emissions reduction targets and a pledge to champion the UN Sustainable Development Goals Accord.

For over a century, UK universities have led pioneering research into the causes and effects of climate change, and shared their expertise with government, businesses and local communities.

As detailed in a new report ‘Confronting the climate emergency: A commitment from UK universities‘, they have also made great strides in making campuses sustainable and are investing in the future by equipping students with the knowledge, skills and climate literacy the world needs to find solutions to the climate crisis.

A number of universities are introducing COP26 scholarships to ensure the brightest and best talent can develop into the climate leaders of tomorrow.

Vice-Chancellors are calling on the government to acknowledge this critical role in the spending review by match-funding these awards and ensuring the overall contribution of universities to climate action is not constrained by budget cuts.

As outlined in the report by Victoria Blake, Environment and Sustainability Manager, UON is committed to net zero carbon by 2030. UON is a signatory of UN SDG Accord and the One Planet Pledge. The University enhances biodiversity and equips students and staff with the skills needed in responding to climate change and ecological destruction.

The University’s procurement process includes social and sustainable aspects where suppliers are required to outline how they will become a positive partner and support the University’s strategic goals.

Greg Spellman, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science, said: “This report from Universities UK is a welcome and timely read. At the University of Northampton, we are already firmly committed to do ‘our bit’ to address the climate crisis. Alongside partner organisations, we will showcase this at a dedicated, week-long series of events in early November, as the COP 26 climate change summit in Glasgow.

“We are also leading the charge with educating the next generation in this regard with a new, dedicated Climate Change degree, the first students of which started their studies this month.”

Professor Judith Petts CBE, Chair of the Universities UK Climate Task and Finish Group, said: “There is no simple solution to the climate crisis, with every sector of the economy facing a different set of challenges. Universities are some of the most effective weapons in the UK’s climate and environmental armoury. Our research and expertise is behind the deep understanding of climate change as well as the technological advances driving decarbonisation and building resilience. We are also equipping graduates with the skills and determination we need to respond to the climate crisis, generating the leaders of tomorrow to deliver public and environmental good.

“The commitments universities are making are far more than simply touting our eco-credentials. But we need government to support sustainable funding for the sector rather than further cuts, and specifically we hope that they will recognise the opportunities of the COP26 scholarships. With stable funding UK universities will continue to pioneer approaches and provide the world with the science, skills, and talent needed to safeguard the future of the planet.”