Global warming cracked soil

The University of Plymouth has declared a climate emergency, joining an international movement aimed at taking action on climate change.

The move, supporting a call by EAUC – The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, reaffirms the University’s position as a global leader in sustainability.

As part of the commitment, the University will adopt a net zero emissions target (scope 1 and 2) by 2025, five years earlier than originally planned.

It will continue efforts to increase recycling rates across its campus, reduce the amount of water used in its facilities, continue to reduce energy use and cut CO2 emissions (which have already fallen by 42 per cent since 1990).

The University will also look to expand its expertise in climate change research, which has led to it influencing government policies across a wide range of fields in both the UK and abroad.

Speaking about the new commitment Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Plymouth, said:

“Achieving net zero emissions is essential, but adapting to future climates is also crucial. As a university, we must get our own house in order in terms of carbon emissions and we are doing so. At the same time, we are committed to transforming lives and responding to the climate emergency and generating the knowledge and skills that will drive future adaptation and sustainable living are at the heart of our mission.”

Read more of Professor Petts' views on the University's work and climate change

Professor Judith Petts, VC

Since its formation, the University has established itself as an international pioneer in sustainability practices, research and education.

It has won prestigious awards for its efforts to embed sustainability across its campuses, including five Green Gown Awards and three Guardian University Awards. All its new buildings are constructed to international standards, waste has been diverted from landfill to a local energy-from-waste plant, and food waste is sent to a local anaerobic digestion plant.

Through its Centre for Sustainable Futures, it has a reputation as a centre for excellence in sustainability teaching and learning, ensure all students graduate with an appreciation of the issues, urgency and opportunities.

Its researchers are also internationally respected, having contributed to advances in thinking on issues including marine pollution and conservation, global warming, environmental change and natural hazards. They also work regularly with organisations including the UK government, United Nations and European Commission.

It has also had an externally accredited environmental management system in place since 2009 and publicly discloses its sustainability performance, including scope 3 emissions, using the GRI reporting framework.

Dr Samantha Davies, Environmental and Sustainability Manager, added:

“Climate change is a global situation, and global cooperation is needed to make a real and lasting difference. We pride ourselves on having staff and students who include environmental practices in their professional and personal lives. But our innovation and research, and the changes on campus, are also having positive effects in the local community and globally.”

World-leading research on climate change

Professor Camille Parmesan

Professor Camille Parmesan: “Since 2009, the impacts of climate change on wild species have become more numerous, geographically more wide-ranging and increasingly complex"

Corals, such as this table Acroporid, provide habitats for a wide range of fauna (photo: Marco

Professor Jason Hall-Spencer: “Unless we can get a grip on reducing CO2 emissions we will undoubtedly see major degradation of coastal systems worldwide”

Professor John Spicer collecting intertidal amphipods from South Cove (photo credit: Simon Morley)

Professor John Spicer: “It would be foolhardy to pin our hopes on ‘evolutionary rescue’. Many large species will almost certainly be the first casualties of our warming, oxygen-poor ocean”

Sunset Offshore Wind Turbine in a Wind farm under construction of England coast, UK. Image courtesy of Getty Images.  

Professor Deborah Greaves OBE: “Since the 1990s, it has been widely accepted that renewables have an essential role to play in meeting global energy challenges, with onshore wind, solar and hydropower making relevant contributions to the energy mix”

Volcano erupting at night spewing orange lava

Professor Iain Stewart MBE: "Natural disasters affect people all over the world, and barely a month goes by without news of devastation to homes and people as a result of earthquakes, volcanoes or flooding"


Dr Oliver Tills: “The amount of data we are generating is vast and this is enabling us to assess the impacts of raised temperatures, salinity and more in ways that we could never have previously imagined"

Dr Zaki Ahmed

Dr Zaki Ahmed: “We have become addicted to energy, we can’t get enough of it. All around us we see computers, phone chargers, flat-screen televisions, and they’re only using half of their power efficiently; I think we can do better than that”

The project brings together scientists and Maasai people to find ways to overcome soil erosion challenges

Professor Will Blake: "Every year 12 million hectares of productive land are lost to soil erosion globally. Unless we take action now, communities who rely on the land for their survival will be left facing an increasingly uncertain future”

Waves pound Chesil Beach in Dorset during the winter of 2013/14 (Tim Poate/University of Plymouth)

Professor Gerd Masselink: “If human-induced climate change is responsible, we need to seriously start thinking about decreasing our vulnerability to extreme storm events and proactively adapt to a more energetic future wave climate”

University of Plymouth campus