Universities and colleges fall short on emissions target

England’s universities and colleges sector looks likely to get only half way to its 2020 carbon emissions reduction target if it continues along its present course, an analysis has shown.

Sustainability consultant Brite Green has scrutinised available carbon emissions data for the 126 universities and colleges funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). It has looked at the performance of the sector and of individual institutions against the HEFCE target of an overall 43% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. While some good work has been done so far, Brite Green says, the sector as a whole is only on track to achieve half the emissions reduction target.

Under the higher education carbon reduction strategy, the HEFCE requires higher education institutions to develop their own carbon reduction targets for 2020, along with carbon management plans to deliver on those targets.

Brite Green’s analysis showed that of the 126 universities and colleges assessed, 87 had achieved some carbon reductions from the 2005 baseline to 2013. The top three performers have already exceeded their 2020 reduction targets. They are:

  • Lancaster University – 46.54% reduction
  • Harper Adams University College – 45.58% reduction
  • University of Reading – 45.46% reduction.

At the same time 39 universities and colleges have increased their carbon emissions. The largest increases were at:

  • University of Surrey – targeted reduction of 34%, but actually delivered 78.33% increase
  • University College Birmingham – targeted 34% reduction, but delivered 87.49% increase
  • Falmouth – targeted 1% reduction, but delivered 96.29% increase.

The consultant says higher education institutions need to review and update their carbon management plans to ensure they are still fit for purpose.

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