Leeds University sets 10-year zero carbon target

The university partially divested last year and has set new rules on accepting money from fossil fuel companies

The University of Leeds will have net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, vice-chancellor Sir Alan Langlands has said.

In a week culminating in worldwide climate strikes, the University of Leeds – which is supporting staff in joining protests – has pledged to hit net-zero carbon emissions by the end of the next decade.

Leeds aims to have no direct carbon emissions by 2050.

The university is one of many, like Goldsmiths, Sussex and Keele, to set itself ambitious zero carbon targets.

This week, the chief executive of The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education (EAUC), Iain Patton, said although some universities are tackling emissions “many others are sticking their head in the sand”.

Policy was recently passed at Leeds University Union asking us to lobby the university to declare a climate emergency and we see the climate crisis principles as a much more extensive step in the right direction
– Lauren Huxley, union affairs officer


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Announcing the target, Langlands said: “We acknowledge it will take time, effort, determination and sheer hard work to achieve a low carbon future. It will require difficult decisions and sometimes pragmatic compromise, alongside action that has direct impact.

“Our overriding aim is to not only to make this transition ourselves, but to harness our expertise to support others, and we will mobilise the University’s combined knowledge, influence, assets and community to tackle this global challenge.”

The university divested in 2018, removing million-pound funds from companies like Shell, BP and Total. Leeds has not totally divested but says “the limited investment in this sector now focused on supporting companies who are evidently making the transition to alternative energy sources and a low-carbon economy”.

Lauren Huxley, union affairs officer at Leeds University Union (LUU), said: “Policy was recently passed at LUU asking us to lobby the university to declare a climate emergency and we see the climate crisis principles as a much more extensive step in the right direction.

“It’s clear that, alongside university staff, students’ passion for the future of our planet has been recognised, listened to and helped drive the direction of these principles.”

The university has pledged to “reorient” its research and teaching away from the fossil fuel sector but will still accept money from fossil fuel companies so long as “the work in question is to reduce carbon emissions or could help to accelerate the transition to a low carbon future”.