University of Strathclyde sets net zero target in major climate victory

VP Inclusion Rachel Cairns (l) and VP Community Kayla-Megan Burns (r) fought tirelessly for the university to adopt bold climate targets

By Rob McLaren

Strathclyde is to become carbon neutral by 2040 at the latest, under new targets set by the university.

Under the proposals, the university has also committed to reducing its tCO2E emissions – tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – by 70% before 2025, and 85% by 2030. Each target is based on baseline levels of 30,000 tonnes of carbon emissions in 2010.

The announcement comes as a major victory for Strath Union, which has lobbied hard for the university to take urgent, radical action on the growing climate crisis. In a referendum held in October, over 95% of respondents voted in favour of the union lobbying the university to bring down its carbon emissions.

While that referendum called for Strathclyde to become net zero by 2025, as opposed to the new 2040 target, the proposals were welcomed as a step forward by the Student Executive.

Kayla-Megan Burns, Vice President Community, said:

“It is absolutely fantastic to see the uni taking on board the voices of its student population and setting a target to decarbonise. It was only a few years ago that the institution first set a target in regard to the climate and it’s brilliant that they have now decided to accelerate their action.

“I don’t think this would have happened without all of the campaigning from our students on various climate issues – both within and external to the institution – so this is a win for absolutely everyone. Next stop: divestment.”

The climate targets were one of sixteen key performance indicators outlined as part of Strathclyde’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan. The previous plan, for the period 2015-2020, included a target to cut emissions by 25% by 2020 – equivalent to a reduction of around 7500 tonnes of carbon from the 2010 baseline.

The Strathclyde Telegraph previously reported that university carbon emissions had increased by over 500 tonnes between 2017/18 and 2018/19, bucking a previous trend which had seen emissions decrease year-on-year.

Speaking in November, a spokesperson for the University of Strathclyde confirmed the increase in emissions, which amounted to a 0.8% year-on-year increase, but added that the university forecasted a drop of around 28% over the five-year period, indicating that Strathclyde had met its previous climate target.

The net zero target year of 2040 places Strathclyde ahead of the Scottish Government’s official target of 2045, but behind Glasgow City Council’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

The announcement places Strathclyde among several UK universities which have recently published ambitious climate strategies towards achieving carbon neutrality.

Last August, Goldsmiths, University of London, announced it was to stop selling all beef products across campus, while adding a 10p charge to all bottles of water and single-use plastic cups. Goldsmiths has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2025.