University announces aim to become carbon neutral

Lancaster University Wind Turbine
Lancaster University Wind Turbine

Lancaster University has declared a climate emergency and announced its aim to become carbon neutral by 2035.

This decision, endorsed by University Council on November 20, follows engagement with staff and students through a series of ‘sustainability conversations’.

The University aims to be carbon net zero for carbon emissions from electricity and heating by 2030 and net zero from all other emissions by 2035.

Lancaster University is the highest producer of renewable energy of all UK universities according to figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency and already has reduced its electricity and heating emissions by 50% since 2005.

Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Simon Guy and Director of Estates, Facilities and Commercial ServicesAndrew Burgess will oversee and co-ordinate the University’s response to the climate crisis.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Schofield welcomed the declaration and said: “We are signalling our collective commitment to social responsibility and tackling climate change and look forward now to working with external partners to achieve our shared sustainability goals.

“We will draw on our world-leading research to leverage discussions, action and solutions to the climate crisis and accelerate our plans to reduce our energy use and transform our operational activities.

“Achieving our targets is going to involve significant financial planning to improve activities and infrastructure across many areas of the University as well as the commitment of staff and students to make positive change especially around travel and energy consumption.”

The University has already implemented a range of projects which have directly reduced the University's carbon footprint and driven significant behavioural change amongst students and staff.

Lancaster University's 2.3MW wind turbine, the first of its kind at a UK university, produces 4,000MWh of electricity per annum, around 15% of University electricity consumption.

The now fully refurbished energy centre has enabled the University to provide low carbon heat and electricity across campus and incorporates a 2MW Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engine, which generates approximately 25% of University electricity, and a 1MW biomass boiler which produces 15% of University heat requirements. Both of these projects have reduced University carbon emissions by over 3,000tCO2e.

Significant progress has also been achieved in cutting certain travel carbon emissions. The University’s Travel Plan has promoted and facilitated use of sustainable travel options and reduced student and staff carbon emissions from daily commuting by over 40% since 2006/07. Approximately half of University staff and 88% of students now commute using sustainable travel modes such as cycling, walking, buses and car share.

The University has made progress in some other areas, such as improving its sustainability and reducing carbon emissions in relation to food. The Edible Campus project, including the 'Ecohub' facility, has provided students with an extensive growing area, orchard, pick your own soft fruits beds, chicken run and herb gardens, in which to learn about and experience growing fresh seasonal produce and how to prepare and incorporate it into a healthy low carbon diet. The popular Ecohub is run by the Green Lancaster team and student volunteers and also hosts school and community engagement events on the theme of food and biodiversity.

New low carbon energy initiatives will be required to meet the 2030 target and a range of projects including the feasibility of a large-scale solar farm are being considered.

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