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Delivering Net Zero

A key principle of the University’s Climate Plan is our ambition to deliver net zero emissions by 2030, and no direct emissions by 2050. More than £150 million is being invested in this programme over the decade.

Our Pathway to Net Zero report sets out our approach to achieving this, alongside our Net Zero Delivery Plan which sets out the specific programmes of work designed to tackle emissions from our estate. The ambitious yet realistic pathway outlines our approach to carbon management across our operations, reducing our use of energy and moving towards ensuring the energy we do use comes from renewable sources.

Drawing on our research expertise, we will use a Living Lab approach to test new solutions and share what we learn, such as our work exploring geothermal energy on campus. Where we can’t avoid emissions we’ll balance them through academically verified projects that remove carbon, in order to achieve net zero emissions.

What is included in our net zero target?

Our net zero by 2030 target is made up of emissions from the fuel and energy used across our estate, including University operated residential accommodation, as well as emissions associated with business travel and commuting by staff and students. The baseline figure for this core carbon footprint is just over 65,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions (CO2e).

We have a second target of achieving no direct emissions by 2050.  Emissions from our wider supply chain are included in this work, as are student travel to and from home, home working, waste and water emissions. We refer to these emissions in our pathway as ‘net zero plus’, and the baseline figure for these is estimated at around 102,000 tonnes CO2e. Work has already begun in this area, including in IT and food emissions, and by aligning our plastics programme to our net zero ambitions.

Emissions sources included in net zero

Net zero includes emissions associated with:

  • Fuel and energy use across the estate (43,661 tonnes CO2e)
    • This figure includes University owned residential accommodation, which makes up around 16% of the total
  • Agricultural activities at the University Farm (estimated 1,429 tonnes CO2e) 
  • Staff and student business travel (13,427 tonnes CO2e) 
  • Staff and student commuting (6,663 tonnes CO2e) 

Emissions sources included in net zero plus

Net zero plus includes emissions associated with our wider supply chain.  This includes:

  • Waste and water
  • Construction
  • Business services
  • ICT
  • Food and catering
  • Manufactured fuels, chemicals and gases
  • Other manufactured products
  • Other procurement
  • Other supply chain

In total these sources represent 102,869 tonnes of CO2e emissions - a breakdown of emission baselines for each of these categories can be found in figure 5 on page 15 of our Pathway to Net Zero.

Net zero plus will also include emissions associated with students travelling to the University at the start and end of term and home working emissions, however measurement of these emissions sources needs to be developed.

Emissions sources that are considered out of scope

Emissions associated with students living in private accommodation (such as their private energy bills and consumption) and visitor travel are considered out of scope for our net zero pathway. These will however be monitored for opportunities to influence reductions in future.

Delivering Net Zero on Campus

The way we heat and power our buildings and estate is a core focus of our pathway to net zero. It will see us update our infrastructure to reduce the amount of energy we need, as well as decarbonising our sources of energy by investing in the generation of renewable energy. Our urban campus and many listed buildings restrict our ability to generate significant quantities of renewable energy on campus, so the majority of energy will need to be generated off site.

Our Net Zero Delivery Plan sets out how we will address the emissions associated with our estate, both through key infrastructure projects and through programmes of work that support energy demand reduction across our operations such as expanding our Sustainable Labs programme. Alongside this work will continue to research new solutions through Living Labs that tackle emissions reductions as well as working to reduce travel emissions through the Sustainable Travel principle.

Our overall pathway will see us reduce our core carbon footprint (scope 1, 2 and travel emissions) by around 67% by 2030. The remaining emissions – predominantly travel and agricultural – will be balanced through academically verified projects that remove an equivalent amount carbon from the atmosphere to achieve net zero.

Governance and reporting

The Net Zero Delivery Working Group is led by Ann Allen, Director of Campus Innovation and Development, and reports into the Climate Principles Programme Board. It includes representation from staff as well as students through Leeds University Union. It is supported by a series of groups who are responsible for development and delivery within areas including energy infrastructure, renewable energy generation, building retrofit, climate resilience and data reporting. 

We report emissions annually to the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) and this data has been used to calculate our baseline carbon footprint for our pathway to net zero. We also provide quarterly updates on emissions associated with fuel and energy use across the estate in order to track our progress. Work is underway to broaden our reporting scope to include a wider set of emissions and support more frequent reporting.

An annual review of progress on our Climate Plan, including our net zero pathway, is reported on by the Priestley International Centre for Climate. 

Get involved

Delivering our ambitious targets will require collaboration and ingenuity from across our University community. Everyone has a role to play.

You can support our pathway to net zero in lots of different ways – by thinking about how you travel to campus and on business, reducing the energy you use at work, making the most out of the resources that we have and choosing low carbon alternatives such as reusable lab supplies or plant based food. Find out more about reducing your environmental impact.

Students and staff can access further information and discussion channels relating to the Climate Plan, including the delivering net zero principle, on the Climate Plan Sharepoint Hub. You can also contribute your thoughts on our pathway through drop in events on campus and online, the annual review of progress led by the Priestley Centre, or by emailing climateplan@leeds.ac.uk. If you are a student, you can speak directly to your LUU exec committee and sustainability reps, whose role is to represent the views of students on the net zero working group.

If you are a member of staff then join our Sustainability Community on Teams, consider becoming a Sustainability Architect or setting up a Blueprint within your team, school or service. For those working in laboratories, we also have a Sustainable Labs network and you can work towards LEAF certification for your labs.

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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our pathway to net zero is linked to the following SDGs:

  • Goal 13: Climate action
  • Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.