The climate crisis is the most important global challenge we all face. As a world-leading University in climate change, it is our obligation to address this; it’s not a choice.
In September 2019 the University of Leeds announced its seven principles to tackle the climate crisis. We will use these principles to guide all University activity in moving towards a sustainable, low carbon future.
The climate principles are led and governed through the University’s Sustainability Committee, but receive input from our whole University community.
We shall prepare our next Climate plan and sustainability strategy with a view to securing a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030, twenty years earlier than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends. Furthermore, although we cannot yet guarantee to achieve it, it is our aim as an institution to have no direct carbon emissions by 2050.
The Climate plan is an operational guide for our staff and students to follow to help us reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 and zero carbon by 2050. It’s going to require the mobilisation of our whole staff and student community to reach our targets. Find out what you can do to help and how you can get involved.
We shall ensure that considerations of sustainability, and specifically our trajectory to a zero-carbon future, shape institutional decision-making. In particular, we will ensure that all major decisions are informed by a sustainability value assessment, just as they are now by a risk assessment.
Sustainability is one of the University’s strategic foundations and spearheaded by the Sustainability Committee. The committee is comprised of staff and student representatives from across the whole institution in order that the decisions we make reflect the needs of our whole university community.
As we make the transition to a low carbon future, we shall increasingly reorient our research and teaching away from the fossil fuel sector. As we do so, we shall continue to work with (and accept money from) fossil fuel companies when the work in question is to reduce carbon emissions or could help to accelerate the transition to a low carbon future.
The transition away from traditional forms of fossil fuel research towards those that are focused on finding sustainable solutions is one that is being made carefully and collaboratively, in a way that does not impact negatively on the quality of our research output and taught curriculum at Leeds. However, Sustainable Solutions isn’t just about fossil fuels – we are also utilising our global connections, world-leading research activity, and interconnected Leeds Living Lab approach to co-create solutions on a local, national and international scale.
We shall further extend the Leeds Sustainable Discovery Theme programme to integrate sustainability into our teaching provision at all levels and give opportunities to students to take part in activities to promote sustainability. We shall also further extend the inclusion of sustainability in our educational engagement and outreach activities.
Sustainability is an integral part of being a student at Leeds, no matter what school or discipline. The Leeds Sustainable Curriculum is working to ensure that sustainability is embedded both into the content and delivery of every module taught at Leeds. All students have the opportunity to study, research, work and volunteer within sustainability as part of their degree, whether that’s through enrolling onto a Discovery Module, through using the Leeds Living Lab approach for a research idea, or getting involved with paid and voluntary opportunities.
We will continue to work with Leeds City Council, in particular through the Leeds Climate Commission and by extending our Living Lab Programme, and with other partners, towards the goal of making Leeds a net-zero carbon city by 2030, consistent with the City Council’s decision in March 2019 to declare a ‘climate emergency’, to sign up to science-based carbon reduction targets, and to work to make Leeds carbon neutral by 2030. We support the City Council’s call on central government to provide the funding and powers to make this possible.
We shall likewise encourage and support the City Council and other relevant authorities to develop a sustainable transport system for the city region (thereby also helping to reduce the University’s indirect carbon footprint). We are committed to internationalisation, and to securing international excellence, but we shall explore ways of developing sustainable forms of international communication and reducing the impact of our business travel in a way which is consistent with that commitment.
In order to reach our carbon targets, it’s imperative that our staff and student body are using sustainable forms of transport as the norm and this can only be achieved in partnership with the city. Improving the sustainability of our business travel also entails assessing our use of digital technology, HR policies and academic research opportunities to reduce the need for travel altogether.
We will continue to invest responsibly. As a minimum, we shall invest only in companies which manage their affairs in a way which is consistent with Paris Climate Accord goals.
In order to realise the climate principles, the University is working with staff and students to produce a climate plan. Due to be released early next year, the Climate Plan is a practical guide explaining how each student, member of staff, and partner of the University can play their part in contributing towards a sustainable and low carbon future. Learn more about the Climate Plan and the practical steps that you can do to help us achieve our climate goals.
We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our climate principles are linked to the following SDGs:
Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.