Warwick University is failing to meet its carbon emissions reduction targets, according to sustainability consultancy Brite Green‘s Carbon Progress Report.
The targets were agreed as part of the Climate Change Act of 2008. Warwick’s target was a 60% reduction in carbon emissions between 2005 and 2020.
According to the new report, Warwick has only achieved a 1% reduction on 2005 levels so far. The report also predicts that Warwick will only achieve a 1% reduction by 2020.
However, these figures are based on overall emissions, and do not take into account University expansion, which Warwick has been undergoing across this period.
But even using a measure that accounts for the University’s expansion, Warwick performed relatively poorly. When emission was measured in CO2 per m2 of floor space, Warwick comes 104th out of 121 UK universities surveyed, actually increasing emissions per m2 by 0.92%.
Measuring by CO2 reductions per GBP of income, Warwick comes 85th out of 121. This does represent a 20% reduction on 2005 levels, however.
Brite Green have admitted that their methodology has some limitations. In the report’s introduction, they state: “The findings of this report highlight the scale of the challenge of delivering meaningful emissions reductions in absolute terms while also achieving commercial growth.”
Hiba Ahmed, a representative of Warwick Green Party Society, accuses Warwick of “green-washing” the issue. She said:
“We talk about how Green week is a thing and have a strong green presence on campus yet the university is at the bottom of the People and Planet rating this year and continues to collaborate with companies such as Rolls Royce, who directly profit from climate change.
“We already knew the university had a massive carbon footprint and this is just another example of just how little is being done to tackle these issues.”
In a statement to the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFC), Warwick said: “A focus on energy-intensive research activity inevitably has knock-on effects to energy use and consequent carbon emissions.
“There have been some notable successes in reducing carbon emissions across the university, resulting in both absolute and relative reductions in emissions.”
Despite the HEFC handing out £90 million in grants to UK universities as a way of encouraging emissions reduction, universities across the country are falling behind their targets, according to the report.
Across the sector, emissions are predicted to fall by only 12% by 2020, compared to the original goal of 43% set in 2008.
No financial penalties
There are no financial penalties for institutions who fail to reach their 2020 target.
Warwick University communications manager Alex Buxton told the Boar: “I’m not aware that we have received any share of the £90 million grants from the Higher Education Funding Council as part of the climate change act in 2008.
“Significant examples of the University’s commitment to sustainability include constructing quality and efficient new buildings, and investing significant capital in the University heat network to reduce carbon emissions.”
Lobbying group Fossil Free Warwick, who were recently successful in pushing the University to move investment away from the fossil fuel industry, were disappointed with the University’s performance.
A representative told the Boar: “Warwick can attempt to distract us and excuse its inaction by claiming that their emissions per person reduce if you squeeze more people onto campus, but total carbon released is the only relevant metric.”
She added: “The atmosphere does not care how many people are contributing to those emissions.”
Boar Science & Tech explore whether it is possible for Warwick to be environmentally responsible without compromising its expansion, here.