• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

The University of Edinburgh’s climate action plan

ByTom Harrington

Mar 28, 2023
Several white badges, overlaid with a red "x" cross and text reading "FOSSIL FREE SCOTLAND" are laid on a wooden surface.

In 2016 the University of Edinburgh set out its Climate Action Plan that outlined the university’s climate goals, including its aim to be carbon-zero by 2040.

This plan represented an acknowledgment of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), committing the university to change its climate footprint.

Headline goals in the report include “Carbon-Zero”, “Adaptation”, and “Carbon Sequestration”.

The university is now ranked 1st in the UK and 4th in the world for sustainability by the QS rankings.

However, the QS rankings noted that the University ranked quite poorly on “sustainable institutions” at only 58.2 per cent.

Rather than focusing on the development of university estates, the framework focuses on mitigating the effects of climate change, highlighting the damage caused by climate change to campus.

It states: “The University has experienced flooding, high winds, complaints of overheating in buildings and high snowfall over the past ten years.”

The adaptation framework also alludes to future-proofing the university’s teaching experience by considering “[in a changing climate] remote teaching options and teaching times.”

Remote teaching has become a central focus in the wake of the pandemic.

Facilitating remote learning may increase the possibility of student participation in an increasingly volatile climate.

Despite Glasgow University and the City of Edinburgh Council both setting 2030 as their net zero goal, The University of Edinburgh aims to be carbon-zero by 2040.

The university’s accountability has previously been brought into question by EUSA President Niamh Roberts, who has been elected as a campaign officer for sustainability for the next academic year.

After their election, Niamh commented that the university appeared to perceive itself as “one in a big sea of actors.”

The university’s carbon sequestration plan highlights that “it is clear that the only defensible position is to adopt an approach to meeting our net zero target using direct carbon sequestration alone.”

Carbon sequestration means capturing or removing carbon directly, without delegating to a carbon offset model.

Ultimately, this would make the university more accountable for its carbon emissions.

Image “20150214_103614” by Ric Lander is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0