BRISTOL: Several universities have declared a “climate emergency” in Britain, reflecting growing student unease over the slow pace of official action. Bristol University did so in April, saying it wanted to acknowledge the deep concerns of its students. It is already acting to reduce its own carbon footprint.
Since 2005, the university has reduced carbon emissions by 27 per cent through a combination of technical measures, including heating controls and LED lighting. It has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030 and in March 2018, it announced plans to divest completely from all investments in fossil fuel companies within two years.
Bristol University should be a pioneer in this field, it houses the Cabot Institute for the Environment, home to several of the lead authors on reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which includes the devastating analysis of last year, that the world is running out of time to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Professor Judith Squires, deputy vice-chancellor and provost said, “Calling a climate emergency highlights the urgency of the task we are engaged in and I hope others join us in increasing their action on this, the biggest challenge we face.”
Across the world, UN Environment is working with universities to set up national and regional Green Universities Networks to enable institutions to incorporate low carbon-climate resilience development strategies and sustainability in education, training and campus operations.
Niklas Hagelberg, coordinator of the Climate Change Programme at UN Environment said, “Decarbonizing our economies and lives will be a defining and recurrent element of any profession until the end of this century. Schools going carbon-neutral provides a great opportunity to demystify carbon neutrality for students and can give them a practical experience through inclusion in curricula and operations of the school.”
The UN Environment has produced the Greening Universities Toolkit V.2.0 to inspire universities to develop strategies for green, resource-efficient and low carbon campuses.
For example, Bowdoin College in Maine became carbon neutral in 2018, two years ahead of the schedule it pledged as part of the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments. The private liberal arts college reduced its carbon emissions by 29 per cent, from 16,326 metric tons in 2008 to 11,620 metric tons in 2017. Bowdoin installed a cogeneration turbine, which produces electricity as a by-product of generating heat, insulated 5,100 feet of underground steam tunnels, replaced thousands of lights with efficient LED bulbs and diverted more than 50 per cent of its waste from landfills.
In Washington D C, American University also reached carbon neutrality two years ahead of schedule. It now uses 21 per cent less energy per square foot than it did in 2005.
The Green Schools Alliance tries to harness this youthful enthusiasm and connects more than 13,000 sustainability champions across more than 9,000 schools, districts and organisations from 48 U S states and 91 countries.
The Alliance believes that schools act as community hubs, helping to transform markets, policy, education and behaviour. Its approach focuses on Whole School Sustainability, which means integrating sustainable solutions into the physical space, organizational culture and educational programmes.