Action on climate change: key strands

What are the specific steps we need to take to achieve carbon neutrality and resilience, and contribute more generally to the sustainability agenda? We will organise these around the following headings:

  • Engaging and empowering our community
  • Promoting efficiency
  • Governance & policy
  • Continuous improvement initiatives
  • Building resilience through

Engaging and empowering our community

Under this heading, we will ensure that the climate emergency is placed at the heart of what we do over the next 20 years. We will strive to engage the entire University community and ensure that everyone is enabled to make a difference.

Specifically, we will:

  • Ensure that the forthcoming University Strategy places a strong emphasis on our commitment to addressing the climate emergency.
  • Through the Centre for Sustainable Solutions, we will signpost funding opportunities for academics, publicise our sustainability-themed research and related projects, ensure that sustainability is woven into the fabric of the curriculum, develop tools to improve staff/student knowledge and facilitate behavioural change.
  • Promote research on aspects of sustainability and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, where this matches the academic strengths of the University.
  • Promote the development of Green Impact Teams across the University to encourage active engagement by staff.
  • Continue to use the GUEST (student intern) network to raise awareness and promote engagement within the student body.
  • Ensure clear and coherent communications regarding environmental actions at the University of Glasgow.
  • Create a new ECO-HUB space on campus to allow for more effective engagement with our student body.
  • Significantly enhance staff and student engagement through regular public forums to help forge an organisation-wide response to the climate emergency.
  • Organise an annual careers fair, showcasing green job opportunities to our students.
  • Overhaul and expand our catering offering to promote sustainable, climate-friendly, healthy diets, emphasising locally sourced produce, seasonality, organics, and vegetarian options.
  • Promote flexible working that fosters a healthy work/life balance, enables home-working and reduces the need for commuting, while recognising the impact this can have on overall emissions.
  • Continue to expand the range of online postgraduate programmes, professional development opportunities, short courses and MOOCs (massive online open courses) that we offer.

Promoting efficiency

By promoting efficiency, we mean ensuring that our estate and infrastructure is optimally organised to reduce our carbon footprint and minimise harm to the environment. The University’s Smart Campus initiative offers a major strategic platform to address this area by harnessing cutting-edge digital technology.

We will:

  • Develop an asset management strategy which ensures that our estate is appropriately maintained, with a focus on improving energy efficiency and ensuring climate resilience.
  • Put in place robust project governance mechanisms to ensure that any building refurbishment work is carried out with sustainable outcomes in mind.
  • Improve the utilisation rates of both centrally and locally managed spaces and ensure that all newly designed and refurbished spaces adhere to agreed space specifications.
  • Exploit advances in renewable energy technology to ensure that our estate is heated in the most carbon-efficient manner, employing water and air source heat pumps, and solar panels.
  • Improve the energy efficiency of other infrastructure, including lighting, HVAC, fabric, and sensors, and identify the savings achieved through those initiatives.
  • Ensure that sustainability is prioritised as part of a revised video and telecommunications strategy, making it easier for staff and students to reduce unnecessary travel.
  • Seek a balance between on-campus and cloud-based data centres to ensure efficient power consumption.
  • Improve the utilisation rates of teaching laboratories and design new research facilities with energy efficiency in mind.
  • Improve the energy efficiency of laboratories through the S-labs programme and by acquiring Green Lab Certification through the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF).
  • Design future buildings that are district heating network-ready and able to exploit low-carbon heat sources.
  • Drive further improvements in space efficiency and foster collaborative working practices by refurbishing office spaces that facilitate agile working.

Governance & policy

Under governance and policy, we will structure our governance and management, and allocate appropriate resource under both capital and revenue to initiatives that make a significant impact on our carbon footprint.

In particular, we will:

  • Ensure appropriate oversight of all climate emergency-related work through regular meetings of our Sustainability Working Group, with reference to the views of the University community sought through staff and student engagement.
  • Monitor progress at Senior Management Group, University Court and other relevant forums.
  • Review our capital spending plans to ensure that there is sufficient resource available to effectively respond to the climate emergency.
  • Develop and implement a travel policy, with the aim of reducing the number of journeys undertaken for business, promoting active travel and reducing carbon emissions from business-related travel.
  • Develop a servicing strategy for our estate that is efficient, minimises the number of vehicle movements, reduces the associated impact on pollution (carbon emissions and particulates), and prioritises the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Set interim carbon reduction targets for the University which match with the UNEP Emissions Gap Report and determine the most appropriate form of carbon offsetting to help achieve these targets (ie a 7.6% reduction in emissions per year).
  • Review all other existing environmental policies and action plans, in the light of our declaration of climate emergency, to ensure they are fit for purpose (Energy Strategy, Strategic Travel and Transport Plan, Waste Strategy, Biodiversity Strategy, Design Standards, Sustainable Food Strategy).
  • Pursue opportunities to collaborate with the City of Glasgow and other local and national partners, such as the Sustainable Glasgow Partnership, in order to further mitigate our carbon emissions.
  • Continue to implement the existing University policy of disinvesting in companies engaged in fossil fuel production.
  • Use the COP26 UN Climate Change Summit (to be held in Glasgow in November 2021) to showcase our research output and impact, along with our approach to both climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • Utilise performance review and promotions structures to encourage and reward staff contributions to the strategy.
  • Require papers to Court, its subcommittees and Senior Management Group to include a sustainability impact section.
  • Review this strategy and action plan at five-yearly intervals, with annual interim reports.
  • Monitor the impact of policies to ensure fairness and avoid placing a disproportionate burden on disadvantaged groups.

Continuous improvement initiatives

Under this heading, we will take forward a range of initiatives which help us reduce waste and contribute to the wider sustainability agenda.

  • Roll out improved internal recycling and composting facilities across our estate over the next three years.
  • Re-launch the University’s WARPit asset reuse portal, with a much broader focus than just furniture.
  • Install freely available water fountains for staff, student and visitors in all our main buildings.
  • Phase out single-use plastics from our catering operations by December 2021 at the latest.
  • Promote active travel and enable staff and students to use environmentally friendly transport methods.
  • Provide electric vehicle charge points for staff on campus.
  • Introduce the Ecovadis system for monitoring sustainability-related risks and driving improvements in our supply chain.
  • Introduce Ecosia (which uses all profits to plant trees) as the default search engine on University computers.
  • Continue to implement the actions defined in our Climate Change Adaptation Plan.

Building resilience through partnerships

We will lead or contribute to a range of initiatives which help prepare us for the effects of climate change over the decades to come.

In particular, we will:

  • Continue to play a role as an active partner in the Climate Ready Clyde initiative, influencing decision making at a city level, to ensure that the city region is prepared for climate change.
  • Freely exchange the knowledge we have gained from the Climate Ready Clyde partnership, to ensure that this innovative approach to delivering climate resilience can be replicated elsewhere.
  • Seek to raise funds from alumni and grant-giving bodies for relevant projects.
  • Work with other universities and national bodies responsible for the environment to raise awareness of the climate emergency, support natural initiatives and ensure that offsetting is taken forward in a responsible, impactful way.
  • Be an active member of the Sustainable Glasgow partnership and contribute to strategy development for the city region, including co-hosting sustainable solutions partnership events in the lead up to COP26