UCL announces 2030 carbon neutral pledge

President and provost Prof Michael Arthur said the university will fully divest from fossil fuel companies by the end of 2019

UCL’s president and provost has announced a raft of “bold” environmental pledges for the university, including a commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

The university’s new sustainability strategy sets out a range of measures which include full divestment from fossil fuels by the end of 2019.

A freedom of information (FoI) request revealed that UCL holds investments of over £17m in fossil fuel companies, which represents about 19% of its total endowment.

The strategy includes plans to generate renewable energy and ban meat at UCL’s events and hospitality functions.

Read more: Clean energy: 20 universities strike ‘landmark’ £50m deal

In the last decade, the university has reduced its total carbon emissions by 27% but will need to make more drastic reductions in order to meet its target at the end of the next decade.

The new strategy did not include the amount of funding pledged to achieving target; University Business has reached out to UCL for comment.

Prof Michael Arthur, UCL’s president and provost, said on the launch of the new strategy: “Universities have a responsibility to lead change for environmental and social sustainability.

“By being proactive, we can mobilise our staff and students and inspire the next generation of young adults to change the world. By doing so, we will play our part in catalysing the broad changes we need to create a sustainable future for people and planet.”

Using UCL’s research, we will make our campus the showcase of how a city-centre global institution can operate within planetary limits
– Prof Gearing Rees, UCL

The university also plans to reduce its total waste by 20%, ban single-use plastic and ‘green’ 10,000m2 of Bloomsbury within five years. Other measures include developing an active travel strategy and launching live air pollution monitoring for the campus.

Prof Geraint Rees, chair of UCL Sustainability Steering Group, said: “UCL knows that to change the future, we have to show that a sustainable future is possible. The UCL Sustainability Strategy encourages all members of our community to do their part in co-creating a world where everyone can live together within the capacity of the planet.

“Using UCL’s research, we will make our campus the showcase of how a city-centre global institution can operate within planetary limits.”

UCL’s new student centre is one of only 320 buildings worldwide to achieve a BREEAM Outstanding rating and all of its buildings will be expected to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2024.

UCL has upheld previous environmental pledges including a ‘zero-to-landfill’ commitment.

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