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Most UK universities failing to hit carbon reduction targets

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the majority of UK universities have failed to meet their carbon reduction targets.

The sector had a goal to reduce emissions directly controlled by institutions by 43% between 2005-06 and 2020-21. However, 59% failed to meet this target and this data has been used by the People and Planet University League to rank universities’ efforts to reduce their carbon emissions.

Jack Ruane, the University League Manager at People and Planet said: “It is disappointing to see that 59% of UK universities have failed to achieve the carbon reduction target.”

He added: “This highlights the importance of holding the sector accountable via short-term assessments of actual reductions in carbon emissions, rather than celebrating net zero target-setting, which are often vague on how offsetting will be achieved.”

Only 33% of universities (50/153) have a written policy commitment to fully screen out all fossil fuels investments, and a further 10 universities have made partial pledges.

Cardiff Metropolitan University topped the league table for the first time with a 65% decrease in emissions over the 15-year timeframe. Other than this, Oxbridge is slipping down the carbon rankings with the University of Oxford falling 16 places to 40th, whereas Cambridge fell two places to 86th.

The University of Exeter and University College London are in the top 10 and, in general, Russell Group universities have scored higher than last year.

Laura Clayson, the Climate Justice Campaigns Manager at People and Planet, said: “Despite 100 UK universities having now publicly announced the exclusion of fossil fuel companies from their investment portfolios, just 60 have enshrined this commitment in a valid policy document. Concerningly, this is a significant drop from 76 last year.

“Severing investment ties with the fossil fuel industry is an important first step for universities to act upon their responsibility to communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis and fossil fuel extraction impacts. We hope to see a sharp increase in policy exclusions in next year’s league in line with this.”



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