Half way there:
University 2020 Carbon reduction targets: progress report
Universities and colleges need to rethink carbon management plans if they are to stay on course to meet their carbon reduction targets.
Some universities and colleges have made excellent progress to date, with Lancaster University, Harper Adams University College and Reading University topping the league table published this April, but two thirds of the institutions reviewed were projected to miss their targets.
With so many institutions off the mark, now is a good time for universities to review and update their carbon management plans to ensure they are still fit for purpose and able to achieve their carbon reduction objectives.
This year marks the half way point for HEFCE funded universities and colleges in England to meet their 2020 carbon redtion targets. In 2011, the Higher Education Funding Council for England set a carbon reduction target of 43% for 2020 from 2005 baseline to help meet the UK’s commitments set out in the 2008 Climate Change Act. As a result, all Higher Education institutions (HEIs) in England were required to set reduction targets and develop carbon management plans to reduce their carbon footprints.
We’ve reviewed the emissions data available (from 2005 to 2013) and our research has found that a reduction of only 8.5% has been achieved to date. If the current reduction trend continues, the higher education sector in England is set to reduce emissions by 21% by 2020, only half of the HEFCE target.
Performance varied significantly by HEI. Of the 125 universities analysed only 43 are on track to meet or exceed their 2020 carbon reduction targets.
There’s a number of possible reasons for the sector lagging behind target. Many initial carbon management plans overestimated possible reductions, especially where “business as usual” forecasts didn’t take into account growth in student numbers, buildings or commercial activities. It’s also likely that unforeseen financial and technology challenges will have hindered the implementation of the abatement measures proposed in carbon management plans. Additionally, the absence of clarity over the penalties for missing targets will have made the business case for reducing emissions more difficult.
The case for carbon reductions and broader environmental management in higher education remains strong. Average UK non-domestic electricity prices more than tripled between 2004 and 2014* and growing legislation continues to increase scrutiny of university’s management of environmental issues. The divestment movement has further raised the profile of environmental issues and has firmly expanded the responsibility for managing environmental issues from the Estates team to Vice-Chancellors’.
This half way point provides a good opportunity for universities and colleges to review and update their carbon management plans to ensure they are still fit for purpose and able to achieve the University’s carbon reduction objectives. We made 5 key recommendations in our report for HEIs to get back on track:
- Review energy use and emissions reductions to date and assess how effective the initiatives that have been implemented have been. Have they achieved the expected reductions?
- Review how successful the carbon management plan implementation has been including why any initiatives failed or were not implemented,
- Assess whether your plan is aligned with your commercial strategy, taking into account expected growth in student numbers and property footprint,
- Review any new carbon reduction opportunities,
- Update your carbon management plan incorporating lessons learned and any new abatement opportunities, and re-forecast emissions profile out to 2020.
Click on the links below to download the sector report and league table. You can also request a detailed report on any of the universities following the link and completing the form.
If you would like to discuss the report findings or to understand how we can help you update your carbon management plan, then please do contact us.
*DECC Statistical Data Set, 25th March 2015. Gas and electricity prices in the non-domestic sector. (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/gas-and-electricity-prices-in-the-non-domestic-sector)