New Sustainability Strategy adopted
Oxford University’s Council has voted to adopt an Environmental Sustainability Strategy that aims to get the University to net zero carbon emissions and biodiversity net gain by 2035
This is the culmination of 18 months of intensive work by academics, students and professional services colleagues across the University. The project included two consultations with over 2,000 responses and significant input from staff and students. There is endless evidence showing that the climate and biodiversity challenges we face are severe and urgent. By adopting the strategy, the University is stepping up to address these challenges in our academic work as well as in our own backyard.
'Today there are innumerable warnings of the impending dangers of climate change and biodiversity loss. We must heed them. Doing so will entail real changes to how we live and work. Just as we have had to challenge all aspects of business as usual in order to be resilient during the pandemic, dealing with the consequences of climate change will require significant, often unwelcome, changes in our daily lives.'
- Professor Louise Richardson, Oxford University Vice-Chancellor
To oversee implementation of the strategy, a new Environmental Sustainability Subcommittee will be set up, reporting to the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee (PRAC). The University will also establish a new Oxford Sustainability Fund, amounting to £200 million for sustainability initiatives over the next 15 years. In order to meet the goals there will be some degree of offsetting for both carbon and biodiversity.
The strategy identifies ten priority areas for action which reflect the direct and indirect environmental impacts of the University’s research and education activities, as well as its operations, investments and supply chain. More detail on these priority areas is available on the Environmental Sustainability website.
Now that the strategy has been approved, we can move into the implementation stage. The Environmental Sustainability Subcommittee will create detailed recommendations to address each priority area, as well as setting up measuring and reporting to monitor the effects of our actions. These measures of progress will include both direct carbon emissions and indirect carbon emissions from areas like travel and supply chains. The methodology for measuring and reporting the University’s impact on biodiversity will be developed over the next year and these environmental measures will be published in Oxford’s Annual Review and financial accounts.
The success of the strategy will depend on the willingness and ability of the University community to come together to change our current behaviours and practices.
At a recent Open Forum event the new strategy was well received. 65% of attendees said they are keen to support sustainability however they can and asked how they could get involved, while another
31% said they will do their best to make more sustainable choices.
When participants were asked to sum up their feelings on the strategy in a single word, the most popular answers were ‘positive’, ‘hopeful’ and ‘encouraged’.