The University of Edinburgh has recently announced plans to capture and store over one million tonnes of unavoidable CO2 emissions.
This process, known as carbon sequestration, may entail the university’s direct ownership and expansion of forests, peatlands, wind farms and solar facilities, or the creation of active partnerships on these.
This commitment will play a key role in the university’s goal to become net zero carbon by 2040.
In light of COP26 in Glasgow, the university has drawn attention to several measures which are aimed at lowering the university’s carbon footprint and drawing attention to the climate crisis.
The Edinburgh Earth Initiative was launched in 2021 and will serve as a focal point for teaching and research on the climate. The Institute will offer scholarship opportunities for students from communities which are especially at risk from climate change.
A Sustainable Travel Policy was also agreed in 2021. This sets out guidelines under which local, national and international travel can take place, with a goal of reducing overall travel, and, when travel is necessary, reducing the emissions from this.
The university has used the Easter Bush campus in Midlothian to construct a solar farm, whilst making a commitment to embed sustainability into the curriculum through its new Curriculum Transformation program.
A University of Edinburgh spokesperson told The Student that this program is “empowering our students to think of new and innovative ways to tackle the challenges we face today and in the future.”
The university has notably announced that they have fully divested from fossil fuels, thus following in the footsteps of several other universities and businesses. The Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Commitments Database states that 1497 institutions worth almost $40tn have divested from fossil fuels thus far.
However, it has been pointed out that the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which provides pensions for a large number of staff at the University of Edinburgh, has not committed to making such divestments from fossil fuels. This issue is a point of contention in negotiations concerning potential strikes at the university.
Magda Olech, a third-year student at the university, told The Student:
“I’m glad that the university addresses the issue of the climate crisis and provides students with updates on their actions. Having said that, I feel like much more could be done, given how wealthy the university is. Reducing the carbon footprint of their investments is not enough, they should aim to be carbon neutral. The climate crisis is a burning issue, and I would like my university to set a better example.”
A University of Edinburgh spokesperson told The Student:
“The University completed full divestment from oil, gas and coal in its investments – as promised – by the start of 2021. We are now working to reduce the carbon footprint of the portfolio in line with climate science and the Paris agreement. We will publish more information on this when we update our climate strategy in 2022.
“We supported the decision by USS to divest from coal – the most carbon polluting fuel – in 2020. We would welcome a discussion with USS on how the entire financial system, including pensions schemes, could take action to avoid dangerous climate change and we will be communicating that desire to USS in our regular meetings.”
Image: Solar and wind power. Wayne S. Grazio via Flickr.