University carbon emissions drop by 8%

Statistics show universities have reduced their carbon dioxide emissions despite expanding campuses and consuming more energy

Universities moderately reduced their carbon dioxide emissions last year according to new data released by the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA).

The estates management record (EMR) data shows carbon dioxide emissions from HEIs dropped 8% in 2018/19 despite providers expanding campuses and consuming more energy.

This data should be a wakeup call to vice-chancellors that think the HE sector is doing enough to help combat climate change – Iain Patton

The number of university buildings increased by 1.8% and energy consumption by 3.3%.

Iain Patton, CEO of the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education (EAUC), said in response to the new data: “As ever though, more can and should be done. The EAUC has declared a climate emergency, and we are encouraging institutions to now commit to reaching net zero emissions as soon as possible. We hope to see a far bigger drop in carbon emissions in the next set of EMR data.”

“This data should be a wakeup call to vice-chancellors that think the HE sector is doing enough to help combat climate change,” Patton said.

The reduction in emissions could be due to the number of universities purchasing electricity from renewable sources with the use of green tariffs. In 2016/17, 21 universities purchased 100% of their electricity from renewable sources. In 2018/19, that figure has risen to 24 universities.

The EMR data also revealed a 23% drop in the amount of waste produced.

The figures are only indicative of trends within the sector as universities are not obliged to provide HESA with data so there is no clear national figure on emissions.

Many universities have committed to a zero-carbon pledge including Cambridge, Glasgow, Bristol, Newcastle, Northumbria, Winchester, Nottingham, Reading, Manchester Metropolitan and Bath. Some, like Bristol and Newcastle, also declared climate emergencies in spring 2019.


Got a news story for UB? Contact James Higgins on 0117 300 5526