We have known about climate change for decades, we’ve talked about it for decades but there is now a very real pressure on all of us to act. And a very clear message that it is the next decade that will be crucial if we are to stem the global rise in temperature. Back in September 2019, the University of Warwick joined other universities and organisations locally, nationally and globally in declaring a Climate Emergency, and highlighting the role we must play as an organisation, as a community and as individuals.
We’ve committed to zero net carbon from direct emissions and from the energy that we buy by 2030. We’ve also committed to zero net carbon from our direct and indirect emissions by 2050. Our new buildings are low energy and more space efficient and we recycled building materials where possible. And while it may not be very visible, we have already reduced our carbon emissions from energy usage by 33% per staff and students FTE, and by 40% by unit of floor area since 2005/6. We have also reduced water consumption by 27% per staff and students FTE over the same period. But we’ve also grown over that period and so the impact on overall energy and water consumption is less dramatic. As we look to 2030 our challenge is to reduce our carbon footprint while still enabling planned growth.
We are delighted to see so many staff and students changing behaviour and processes to support the University in reducing our carbon emissions, but there is much more we need to do. The next national Global Climate Strike is scheduled for Friday (29 November), and for members of our community that are motivated to get involved with others from around the world to combat climate change, there is much that you can get involved in.
We are taking part in an amazing new national recycling competition called Recycle League, competing against 11 different UK Universities to see which of us can improve our recycling rates the most during November. We’re reducing food waste through TooGoodToGo and trialling BorrowMyCup with the SU to reduce the waste from disposable cups.
Our ‘Cut the Flow’ ambassadors are running a photo competition on Instagram to raise awareness of water and energy consumption. You can take part by uploading an image or creative poster that illustrates your efforts to save water or energy (or, indeed, both!) using #CutTheFlow2019 and if you win, you’ll get £20 on your Eating at Warwick card.
And on Thursday 28 November 2019, staff and students from across the University that have a passion for sustainability are coming together at a sustainability Summit event. Joel Cardinal, Head of Energy and Sustainability at the University, will be joined by other groups at Warwick to explore different strategies – technical, organisational and behavioural – to underpin the carbon targets for 2030 and 2050.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the volunteers that collected eight tonnes of food surplus from halls of residence as students moved out, and donated it to local food banks. The group also collected other leftover items and held a ‘pay as you feel’ sale at the start of term, which raised a fantastic £3,596 which was donated to a local environmental charity.
In addition to these student and staff led initiatives, we also have a responsibility in combating climate change through our research and teaching, and how we run and develop our university. We continue to work with partners and colleagues outside the university to embed ambitious innovative sustainable development into our region, utilising more efficient fuels, transport and energy generation methods.
Just this week, WMG welcomed industry speakers and academics to campus to attend the Very Light Rail Conference. Very Light Rail is a lower cost, zero emission option for sustainable transport, that we believe could create modal shift and encourage people to leave their cars at home.
And in September we launched our Institute for Global Sustainable Development; Warwick’s hub for transdisciplinary research on global sustainable development that will enable transformative change in global sustainable development. This Institute sits with our Global Sustainable Development degree programmes which offer a multidisciplinary curriculum that addresses sustainability in its broadest sense.
Sustainability is vitally important to the University, and that there is a lot of work under way to progress us towards the commitments we have made. But so much more is needed if we are going to meet the challenge we have set ourselves. Some actions may be easy and obvious (though not necessarily cheap) – buying green energy, reducing the use of cars, increasing use of public transport. Some interventions will be more of a challenge – changing consumption patterns or reducing the amount of space we use. And while it may sound clichéd it will be something that requires a commitment and a willingness to change from all of us.