Exeter University should be carbon neutral by 2040, staff and students say

The University of Exeter set up the panel to review the university’s environmental impact after it declared a climate emergency earlier this year

The University of Exeter “must take rapid action” to reduce pollution, a panel of staff and students has said.

A report from the panel said the university should be carbon neutral by 2040 and cut long-haul travel by 50% by 2025.

The university set up the panel led by Prof Juliet Osborne after it declared a climate emergency earlier this year.

The vice-chancellor’s Executive Group has agreed to establish an Environmental Emergency Board to design a plan to start in January 2020.

Among its other recommendations, the report said the university should reduce indirect emissions (such as those associated with waste and purchasing) by 50% by 2030 and seek to eradicate them by 2050. The report also said a commission was needed to review university procurement, which it estimates to account for over 60% of Exeter’s carbon footprint.

Prof Osborne, chair in applied ecology at the university, said: “The university must take transformative, rapid action to tackle the environment and climate emergency.

“We present a wide range of recommendations to meet these targets, which require change across every aspect of university business including infrastructure, strategy and culture.”

Prof Osborne said the university should also increase recycling by 70% and halve plastic and paper use by 2025.

Read more: Exeter University cuts eight tons of waste with online reuse portal

Sir Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, welcomed the report and said he supported “a good proportion of the goals and recommendations”, but warned further work was needed “particularly where there are major financial or structural implications”.

Sir Smith pledged to engage the university’s “28,000-strong community of students and staff” in responding to the report.

Earlier this month, the GW4 Alliance – which includes Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter universities – said the west of England is a world leader in climate change science and is home to more experts “than anywhere in the planet”. The GW4 region celebrated its five-year anniversary in 2019 by announcing it had invested £2.8m in 87 collaborative research communities.

This month, four sector bodies launched a new climate change commission for the higher education sector which will set sector-wide goals by December 2020.

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