University of Glasgow ramps up its response to the climate emergency

A commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is the headline measure in the university’s new climate strategy

The University of Glasgow is the latest HE institution to ramp up its reaction to the climate emergency, including a headline commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“There’s a clear demand from students and staff that we go further and faster,” said Professor Daniel Haydon, co-chair of the sustainability working group that produced Glasgow Green: The University of Glasgow’s Response to the Climate Emergency.

Published yesterday (November 30), the strategy outlines five key areas in which to act:

  • Engaging and empowering the community Including increased support for academics engaged in sustainability research, developing an eco-hub, and instigating green careers fairs
  • Promoting efficiency Drives to improve energy use and climate resilience will be augmented by deploying new renewable energy generation tech, as well as cutting travel through increased use of remote communication
  • Governance and policy Putting sustainability at the centre of top-level decision-making, plus a review of current environmental policy, further disinvestment in fossil fuels and reduction of business travel, and showcasing the university’s research output and impact when Glasgow hosts COP26 next year
  • Continuous improvement initiatives A series of undertakings to reduce waste, such as improving internal recycling facilities, removing single-use plastics from catering operations, and expediting attempts to make the university’s supply chain sustainable
  • Building resilience through partnerships Including a continuation of the Climate Ready Clyde partnership, raising funds for new projects, and working more closely alongside fellow universities and national sustainability bodies

The strategy document – echoing a similar plan published by the LSE in October – follows consultations with 1,300 students and staff, wherein opinions were sought via surveys, seminars, discussions at the institution’s senior management group, senate, and student experience committees.

It is vital that we rise to the challenge of shaping a liveable world for future generations – Dr David Duncan, co-chair of the university’s sustainability working group

“This strategy is a strong commitment from the university to continue to become more sustainable,” said Liam Brady, president of the Glasgow University Student Representative Council.

“Students are well aware of the impact the climate emergency will have on our future, so it’s great to see the university recognise this and come out with this new strategy.”

Glasgow’s new plan builds on commitments already in place, stretching back to a 2016 declaration to divest from fossil fuels within a decade. Between 2015/16 and 2018/19, emissions at its campuses dropped by more than 13%.

Since that 2016 vow, the university has signed the Sustainable Development Goals Accord, declared a climate emergency, and opened its Centre for Sustainable Solutions to support interdisciplinary attempts to nullify the climate threat.

You may also like: How is the UK’s HE sector addressing today’s major sustainability challenges? 

In bidding to hit its 2030 carbon neutrality target, Glasgow will invest in offsetting programmes such as reforesting land or restoring peatland in Scotland, together with similar projects in low- and middle-income countries around the world.

The plan is not simply for the university to reduce its footprint, but to create opportunities for new research projects.

“Universities have a unique role to play in the fight against climate change,” said Dr David Duncan, co-chair of the sustainability working group.

“We are educators, researchers, and contributors to our local communities. It is vital that we rise to the challenge of shaping a liveable world for future generations.”

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