The University of Warwick has been ranked 60th in People and Planet’s University League table for 2019.
Compiled by the student-led network, the table ranks 154 universities across the UK on their environmental and ethical performance.
Amid avid student activism over the climate emergency, the Office for Students (OfS) is planning on withdrawing the obligation for universities to supply data on carbon reduction and other environmental issues, meaning the 2019 People and Planet league could be the last of its kind.
Scores were calculated from a combination of information made public by universities online and data obtained from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).
People and Planet award universities a First class degree, 2:1, 2:2, Third, or Fail according to scores out of 100 for 13 different criteria.
These include environmental policy, auditing and human resources, and their performance in areas such as carbon reduction and energy efficiency.
Warwick scored 42.9% overall and was awarded a ‘2:1’. It was the lowest ranked university in this bracket of classification.
In previous years, the University had fallen under the classification of failed universities. Reports by The Boar also outline that that Warwick refused to take part in 2015.
In 2019, the University was also ranked exactly mid-table among the 24 Russell Group universities.
For its overall policy and strategy, Warwick was awarded a score of 40%. This criterion is made up of two separate scores, for an environmental policy and then a sustainability strategy.
The entire percentage of 40% was awarded for the latter as the University’s environmental policy scored zero out of 50%.
In terms of carbon reduction, the University scored 12.5%
A score of 0% was given to how responsibly Warwick is using water. 10% was awarded for both the sections on responsible behaviour regarding workers’ rights and ethical investments.
In terms of carbon reduction, the University scored 12.5%. No marks were awarded for the stipulation on a change in carbon intensity over the last year, which made up 50% of the potential marks for this criterion.
Other sections include how sustainable the food at the University is (45%), inclusion of sustainability in education (40.5%), and waste and recycling (37.5%).
Out of the 13 criteria, Warwick scored above 50% for five. 100% was awarded for how well the University manages and audits their environmental performance and progress.
Furthermore, the section on carbon management, which includes having a plan and looking at Scope 3 emissions, scored 70%.
The section on staff – how a university resources its policy and strategy – achieved 75%. This included full marks for senior responsibility and for supporting a staff engagement scheme, but 0% for evidence of a budget to fund the sustainability strategy.
55% of this section was made up of the total score given for the number of staff at the University working on sustainability. For this, Warwick was awarded 40%.
65% was given for how well Warwick engages its students and staff in sustainability while 62.5% was awarded for the University’s energy sources.
The University of Gloucestershire sits at the top of the table for 2019, having already met its carbon target with a 46% reduction in emissions since 2005. It also gained marks for divesting all fossil-fuel investments.
New universities dominate the top 10, with Manchester Metropolitan and Nottingham Trent universities coming second and third respectively.
Of the older Russell Group universities, the University of Bristol is ranked the highest in 11th place overall, followed closely behind by Newcastle University (12th) and London School of Economics (13th).
It’s abhorrent to watch universities fail on climate change at a time when people on the frontlines of the impacts are fighting back against heatwaves and forest fires
– Hannah Smith
Predicted from this year’s figures, 49 institutions overall are likely to meet the sector wide target of a 43% reduction of carbon emissions between 2005 and 2020.
The research also shows that only one-third of universities with pledges to divest from fossil fuels have the commitment enshrined in policy.
Although 76 UK higher education institutions have announced they would remove their investments from fossil fuel companies, 19 were awarded full marks in the League for explicitly screening out all fossil fuels in their ethical investment policies.
Eight of the 154 ranked universities have a policy to invest in renewable energy.
Hannah Smith, People and Planet’s co-director of campaigns and research, told The Guardian: “It’s abhorrent to watch universities fail on climate change at a time when people on the frontlines of the impacts are fighting back against heatwaves and forest fires.”
“Universities have a duty to stand with those communities and their students on strike and use their privileged position to act,” she said.
She added that it “is vexatious that while students of all ages go on strike to build a global movement for an equitable carbon transition, the OfS rows backwards to a time where measuring carbon emissions was deemed superfluous admin”.
The OfS, which has taken over the role of overseeing the higher education sector from Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefcfe) who originally set the targets, is planning on dropping carbon emission records for English universities.
The League creators have said that voluntary data collection would be incomplete and information could be beyond their reach if access to it has to be paid for.
An OfS spokeswoman explained to The Guardian that “currently, the OfS does not have a regulatory need for the data within the estates management record”.
They continued: “We fully support Hesa and providers working together to collect data on a voluntary basis where this adds value, but providers will have freedom to opt in to such collections.”
Whilst our sustainability team is incredibly proactive and passionate, it is small, and needs all the support it can get from students, staff, and management to make sure we are meeting green goals
– Becca Brown
Chris Saltmarsh, co-director of climate change campaigns at the network, commented: “Universities’ failure to embed divestment commitments in policy is a crisis of accountability. Student bodies are always changing and without clear policy landmark pledges are easily brushed under the rug.
“We won’t allow universities to let themselves off the hook by waiting for students to leave before abandoning divestment.”
Recently, over 7,000 higher and further institutions around the world joined forces to declare a climate emergency and pledge to a range of actions that will tackle climate change.
In March this year, a letter was sent by Warwick’s Climate Emergency Coalition to the University Council, calling for a declaration of climate emergency to made.
Students at the University voted for Warwick Students’ Union (SU) to make a declaration of climate emergency in the Term 3 All Student Vote.
Declarations of a climate emergency have also been made this year by local councils to the University including Warwick District and Coventry City.
Environment and Ethics Officer-elect for Warwick Students’ Union (SU), Becca Brown, told The Boar that “it’s not surprising that one has to scroll a fair way down People and Planet’s University Sustainability League table to find Warwick.”
She said: “In meetings during my candidacy back in February of this year, it was made clear early on that the university does not have sufficient processes and protocols in place to maximise its efficiency with regards to being as ethical, sustainable, and environmentally conscious as possible.”
It’s impossible to come at the top of those tables while we succeed and grow to that extent so we settle for changing the world as a whole for better instead
– University of Warwick
Becca also questioned “how we can know, let alone effectively act upon the true total figures of our consumption” when “some halls of residence are still not even monitored by energy or water meters”, and “the most recent on-campus traffic and transport report was carried out in 2009” during which the local and University population “were thousands less than they are now”.
The officer-elect added that the University “should really make the effort” to provide data that is recent, transparent and comprehensive “so that we know how to target areas where we fall short”.
“Whilst our sustainability team is incredibly proactive and passionate, it is small, and needs all the support it can get from students, staff, and management to make sure we are meeting green goals.
“As a university founded on petroculture and automotive industries, Warwick has an opportunity to make a real statement and set a precedent in terms of climate and environmental action, and ethical investment, rather than just continuing to expand building sites and infrastructure, and cut down campus trees to make room for more carparking,” Becca concluded.
Asked about Warwick’s results in People and Planet’s League, the University commented: “This latest table ranks us right in the middle of all Russell Group universities.
“However, we are a successful campus-based university that each year has added new facilities that students and staff want such as new residences the new sports hub, enhancing the Arts Centre etc. Such developments inevitably means more people and more technology using more resource no matter how efficient we are in our resource use.
“We have expanded the work we do in crop research to help feed the planet and battery research to make the world’s vehicles more environmentally friendly but that has meant more labs and facilities so it’s impossible to come at the top of those tables while we succeed and grow to that extent so we settle for changing the world as a whole for better instead.”
The University added that there are “many plans in place to continue support the induction of students in terms of sustainability in the new academic year” as well as a summit every six months, the next of which is being planned for 17 October, “to keep everyone aware of plans and actions that (the) University and its community are taking”.