First profile of carbon footprint for UK Higher and Further Education Institutions released alongside innovative framework for sector-wide carbon reporting
AN AMBITIOUS roadmap for carbon reduction in the tertiary education sector has been released by The Royal Anniversary Trust following a year-long research project which has involved the University of Huddersfield and other higher and further education institutes from across the UK, all recent winners of a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize.
The report ‘Accelerating towards Net Zero’, offers a robust profile of the tertiary education sector’s carbon footprint – the first of its kind – using detailed modelling which highlights target areas for emissions reporting and reduction. It also proposes a new standardised carbon reporting framework designed exclusively for the sector which will enable all HE and FE institutions to measure, report and manage carbon emissions.
These are the outcome of ‘The Platinum Jubilee Challenge’, a project that has been led by the 21 higher and further education institutes to be awarded the latest Queen’s Anniversary Prize. It concludes with 14 clear recommendations to Government and priorities for the sector that will accelerate progress towards Net Zero; Ministers have committed to respond by 28 March 2023.
The University’s Centre for Precision Technologies was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2021 for the innovative and ground-breaking work in the role of advanced measurement in smart manufacturing. This followed the University’s Institute of Railway Research, after it received a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2019, “for research and development that has brought significant improvements to the railway industry”.
“Both personally and as Dean of a business school with responsibility at the heart of mission and vision, I am passionate about embedding sustainability in all we do including curriculum, research and our everyday operations. It was a privilege to be involved in this project and I look forward to it having tangible benefits.”
Professor Jill Johnes, Dean of Huddersfield Business School.
The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes were first presented in 1993 to recognise universities and colleges that had carried out ground-breaking pioneering research in a wide range of disciplines. The University received its first Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015, awarded to the Centre for Research in New Music for its “world-leading work to promote, produce and present contemporary music to an international audience”.
Representing the University of Huddersfield were Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Tim Thornton, Dean of Huddersfield Business School Professor Jill Johnes and Carbon and Energy Reduction Officer Patrick Flavin.
“Both personally and as Dean of a business school with responsibility at the heart of mission and vision,” said Professor Johnes, “I am passionate about embedding sustainability in all we do including curriculum, research and our everyday operations. It was a privilege to be involved in this project and I look forward to it having tangible benefits.”
Kristina Murrin, CEO of The Royal Anniversary Trust commented: “Our ambition was to bring together the extraordinary winners of the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes to collectively tackle a tough shared challenge. The resulting report sets out a clear action plan for the tertiary education sector to accelerate progress to Net Zero, with recommendations for institutions and government.
“We are enormously proud of the proposed carbon reporting Framework – if adopted sector-wide, this will allow for consistent, transparent, and data-led decision making,” she added.
The Department for Education confirmed they are asking universities and colleges to report their carbon emissions by 2024 as per their Sustainability & Climate Change Strategy. While many do already report, there is currently no agreed model or framework to allow them to do this consistently. The Challenge group sought to rectify this.
‘Accelerating towards Net Zero’ provides a comprehensive overview of specific challenges and opportunities for decarbonisation of the tertiary education sector and how this can drive change across wider society.
The report provides the first estimated total carbon footprint for the tertiary education sector. Emissions across Scope 1, 2 & 3 were estimated to be 18.1 Mt CO2e, with HE institutions contributing approximately 86% of this and FE 12%.*
A sector-specific Standardised Emissions Reporting Framework based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol is also included and identifies three key Action Pathways to Net Zero: The Built Environment, Travel and Transport, and Sustainable Supply Chain. Together these three areas account for 80% of the sector’s total emissions.
- 19% of the sector’s total emissions are related to the Built Environment, representing an institution’s Scope 1 and 2 fuel and electricity as well as Scope 3 emissions related to construction.
- 24% of the sector’s total emissions relate to Scope 3 Travel and Transport from business travel, employee and student commuting and international student travel.
- 36% of the sector’s total emissions relate to Scope 3 Supply Chain emissions, which are highly influenced by specialised purchases such as medical equipment and business services.
The report outlines practical measures the government can take through policy, regulation and resources that will unlock system-wide change to facilitate decarbonisation.
‘Accelerating towards Net Zero’ includes five student-led funded projects and over 30 innovative case studies including the largest Passivhaus Premium building in the world; an online staff and student sustainability engagement platform; creative partnerships with local public transport links; green Cloud computing service and climate solutions training.
The Reporting Framework
The Standardised Carbon Emissions Reporting for Further and Higher Education (SCEF) was developed by EAUC – The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, funded by the Department for Education, and consulted on via the Challenge participants and the sector via member bodies amongst whom were the Association of Colleges (AoC), Colleges Scotland and Universities UK (UUK).
The Framework will bring good practice and guidance and will develop a fuller understanding of how institutions contribute to the climate emergency and enable them to act.
The Department for Education has confirmed that universities and colleges will be reporting their carbon emissions by 2024 as per their Sustainability & Climate Change Strategy.
Fiona Goodwin, CEO (Interim), EAUC commented: “To ensure students and stakeholders can hold their institutions to account, a standardised framework must be used for colleges and universities to ensure transparency and comparability. This Framework ensures institutions are taking their responsibilities seriously and taking action to become Net Zero and be part of the solution through their world leading teaching, learning and research.”
To view the 14 recommendations to Government and asks of the sector read the full report here.