Sustainability Strategy

The University declared a Climate Emergency in July 2019.  In September 2020 the University Executive approved a new Sustainability Strategy 2020 - 2030 which reviewed the carbon journey since 2008/9 baseline – pages 14 &15- and projected based on a 1.5-degree warming scenario the university aims to reduce its direct and indirect GHGe emissions to be net zero by 2030 from a new baseline year 2018/19, pages 16-19.      

Carbon reduction targets   

Carbon reduction SMART targets for 2020/21

The University intends to achieve:

  • 5% p.a. reduction in carbon emissions in Scopes 1, 2 & 3, against a 2018-19 baseline, from 2020 to 2030;

These targets will secure a 50% reduction in emissions from the 2018-19 baseline in a 1.5 degree warming scenario. To achieve net zero emissions by 2030, the remaining emissions will need to be balanced with carbon removals, such as tree planting in managed woodlands, managing university land for maximum soil health and carbon sequestration.  We will contribute to a sector owned carbon offset scheme.

Annual quantitative and qualitative targets are set and the sustainability budget identifies specific projects to be achieved throughout the year. Please see our Sustainability Targets 2021-22.

Carbon emissions

Progress against 2019-20 targets and full historical data:

Non Carbon Quantitative and Qualitative Targets for all areas

Performance against our overarching carbon emissions targets. The University measures and reports on carbon emissions in three ways:

  1. Absolute emissions

Scope 1 & 2 absolute emissions* (tCO2e) decreased 13% between 2018-19 and 2019-20, and 25% from the baseline year (2008/9) which is welcome.  However, we missed our target of 40% by 2020 from a 2008/9 baseline. See figure one. We consumed less gas and electricity last year 13,854 MWh compared to 16,092 MWh (14%) this year, which is pleasing.

Electricity carbon emissions reduced 24% from last year, a reduction in electricity use 5,465 MWh to the 4,542 MWh a reduction of 17 %. More UK electricity is generated from renewable sources so everyone’s carbon emissions from electricity is going down and 4 months of this year the university was in lockdown.

Gas carbon emissions reduced 3.5% from last year as did consumption from 9,692 MWh to 9,312 MWh.  The year was slightly warmer with 2% fewer degree-days.

Fleet carbon emissions decreased 29% from last year however, Covid obviously impacted.


  1. In relation to the number of students and staff at the University (tCO2e/FTE and kWh/FTE)

Carbon emission intensity has decreased by 8% compared to last year and 50% since our 2008-09 baseline year, significant changes have been due to the decarbonisation of the electricity grid in the UK. Student numbers declined slightly by 3.7% in academic year 19/20. We now have 8,863 full time equivalent students and staff on campus compared to 5,868 in our baseline year. On campus whilst we have more people are using our buildings, the carbon reduction initiatives on electricity and gas are making a difference. Note lockdown has meant we have used less energy this year. As well as the reduction in carbon our energy intensity reduced by 4% from 2018-19 to 2019-20.

  1. In relation to university buildings – floor space (tCO2e/sqm and kWh/sqm))

Carbon emission intensity in relation to the number of buildings reduced by 13% this year and by 56% since our 2008-9 baseline year, we are emitting less carbon per square metre. The energy intensity also reduced by 8.6% during the year. This is 30.7 % residential and 69.3%  academic buildings. 

Scope 3 indirect carbon emissions

Scope 3 emissions* have decreased 18% last year, this is predominantly due to Covid changes in our commute travel for both staff and students.  Since our scope 3 base year 2012/13 we have reduced our emissions by 5% which missed our target. See figure one. It is important to note one of the two primary contributors to these indirect emissions, procurement, does depend on spend each year. Therefore, if we spend more emissions go up. A factor arguably the university has more influence over is staff and student commuting to campus. Due to Covid these emissions have reduced by 44% in the past year; however, we have seen more people are driving on their own to campus. See figures 1 & 2 below.


Year on year comparison of total carbon emissions, all scopes, compared to target

 Figure 1: This graph shows the university's total carbon footprint broken down between direct (scope 1 & 2) and indirect (scope 3) carbon emissions. Year on year comparison of carbon emission targets against our actual absolute emissions.



Year on year comparison of scope 1 and 2 tCO2e actual emissions against target
Year on year Comparison of scope 3 tCO2e emissions against actual

Figure 2: These graphs show the university total carbon footprint for all scopes direct (scope 1 & 2) and indirect (Scope 3) carbon emissions. Year on year comparison of carbon emission targets against our actual absolute emissions.