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The University of Plymouth is playing a leading role in a national initiative aimed at promoting climate action in universities and colleges across the UK.

Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University, is one of four sector leaders heading up the new Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education Leaders.

Officially launched today (Wednesday 13 November), the Commission is a partnership between EAUC (the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges), the Association of Colleges, GuildHE and Universities UK.

It will enable universities and colleges to work together in an unprecedented way to tackle the climate crisis, and will work with students, UK government, regulatory bodies and sector agencies.

Over the next 12 months, it will develop a strategic framework and set ambitious targets, including proposals for ensuring progress, with a final report being presented at COP26 in Glasgow in 2020.

Professor Petts, who is representing the University and also serving as the Universities UK Commissioner, said:

“Universities have the power and the responsibility to make a significant global contribution to the urgent need for emissions reduction and climate change adaptation. Universities drive scientific understanding of the scale and speed of the crisis, they are leading climate emergency responses and are embedding sustainability education across their programmes to equip graduates to make a difference. I hope the Climate Commission will be a driving force for leadership, action and impact through the higher and further education sectors and networks."

Earlier this year, the University pledged its support to a call for universities to declare a climate emergency, reaffirming its position as a global leader in sustainability action and research.

As part of that commitment, it agreed to 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.

The new Commission will encourage other universities to replicate those efforts, ensuring the UK government’s target of reducing all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 is met.

It will also seek expert evidence from academics and researchers to consider how to use existing good practice and encourage greater collaboration, with government and regulatory bodies such as the Environmental Audit Committee, Committee on Climate Change, Defra, BEIS, Department for Education, DFID, Office for Students, HEFCW and Scottish Funding Council acting as observers.

Planet Earth in space. Globe in galaxy. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Planet Earth in space. Globe in galaxy. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

University of Plymouth campus