Sector performance report

University 2020 carbon targets: progress report

This is our third progress report on the carbon emissions performance of HEFCE funded universities. The report shows that despite some universities having achieved excellent reductions the sector remains behind its 2020 target.

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Background: Higher education carbon targets
To help meet the UK Government’s carbon reduction targets set out in the Climate Change Act, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) developed a sector reduction strategy in 2011. It required Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to set carbon reduction targets for 2020 and implement carbon management plans to achieve them.

Performance update
Universities have now reduced total emissions by 10% from the 2005 baseline. This is a great achievement especially against the backdrop of significant commercial growth. The sector however is only projected to reduce emissions by 15% by 2020, well behind the sector target of 43%.

2013/14 University sector carbon performance

Our analysis suggests that more than 70% of universities are not on track to achieve their own carbon targets for 2020, a slight improvement on last year.

2013/14 carbon target performance

This year’s analysis also looks at research intensive institutions in more detail. The 20 Russell Group universities in England are responsible for about half the sector’s emissions and only the University of Birmingham is currently on track to achieve their carbon targets.

Recommendations for universities
Universities need to update their carbon management plans to ensure they are still fit for purpose and able to achieve their carbon reduction targets. It is important that this review aligns the carbon and commercial strategies and incorporates the wider opportunities from the sustainability agenda.

Many universities have started to consider how environmental and sustainability issues will shape the risk and opportunity landscape for the next 10 years, and are developing a broader sustainability strategy covering academic, operational and financial management.

There are 4 main recommendations for universities to recalibrate their carbon management plans:

  • Review your performance
  • Benchmark against peers and best practice
  • Identify areas for improvement
  • Upgrade to an integrated sustainability strategy

Download the full report to for the full analysis and expanded recommendations.



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Case studies