LSE country’s first carbon neutral university

The university hopes to have net-zero emissions for scope one and two emissions by 2030 – and for all its emissions by 2050

The London School of Economics has claimed to be the first carbon-neutral university in the UK, following independent validation of its carbon reduction and offsetting.

The BSI validated the LSE based on its emissions for the academic year 2020/21. The university’s direct emissions – scope one, two and some in scope three – have decreased by 44% compared to 2005. LSE funded 80,090 sq miles of rainforest to offset around a third of its carbon emissions.

LSE counts its direct emissions as the entire scope one and two emissions, those greenhouses gases emitted directly from its campus or from the energy it buys – and some scope three emissions, namely its water, waste and business travel. Its carbon-neutral status does not include its other scope three emissions, such as those associated with the goods and services it buys, international students travelling from overseas to its campus or those emitted by staff and students working off-campus.

We will continue to follow a challenging carbon reduction pathway aligned with climate science, to support the transition to a net-zero carbon world
– Minouche Shafik, director

The university has invested £4.8 million since 2015 in energy efficiencies, including retrofitting its buildings and installing “Building Management Systems, installing LED lights and advanced lighting controls, fitting solar panels, insulating pipes, or replacing boilers and chillers”. It has bought all its electricity from renewable energy suppliers since 2009 but removing gas from its heating infrastructure was its next biggest obstacle, it added. A recent survey of estates directors found that replacing gas-fuelled appliances with cleaner alternatives is the most significant change universities need to make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“While solutions are emerging for low-carbon heat, these are costly to adopt at scale, and most especially in a dense urban environment with limited space. We are scoping options, such as opportunities to connect to planned local heat networks,” the university explained.

The university hopes to achieve net-zero emissions for scope one and two emissions by 2030 – and for all its emissions by 2050.

To do this, the university will pursue other strategies. “LSE catering outlets are rolling out carbon impact food labelling on menus, helping customers make informed choices and increasing the uptake of plant-based options,” the university said by way of example. It will also pressure its suppliers to make, produce and deliver net-zero goods and services.

LSE director Minouche Shafik said: “Becoming carbon neutral is a key milestone for LSE and reflects years of efforts and investment to reduce our carbon emissions. We will continue to follow a challenging carbon reduction pathway aligned with climate science, to support the transition to a net-zero carbon world.”

Carbon dioxide emissions from UK universities dropped by 10% in the year to July 2020, suggest latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa).


Read more: UK universities to be net zero by 2050

Related news: Sustainable architecture: build less, retrofit more, say experts

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