Rolle solar shading

Carbon footprint animation

It's hard to visualise the tonnes of greenhouse gases produced and what this looks like. Here is an animated film from 2014 indicating our carbon footprint, and what this looked like against the backdrop of the campus. 
When the animation was made in 2014, our scope 1 and 2 carbon footprint was 11,000 tCO₂e. In the 2020–21 academic year, it was nearly half at 6,088 tCO₂e. We measure our carbon footprint utilising the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and official carbon conversion factors published by the UK Government.
12 steps to net zero

Our commitment

Our mission is to deliver net zero emissions from scope 1 and 2 by 2025 and scope 3 by 2030–2050. This is aligned with our vision to deliver interdisciplinary research, experimental education and civic engagement whilst reducing our negative impact on the environment and responding to the climate emergency as declared in 2019
Our ultimate commitment is to reduce emissions as far as possible at source, and we have reduced emissions by 78% since 2005–2006. However, on our journey to net zero emissions we want to reduce our impact on the environment as much as possible and so have chosen to offset for the remaining 22% of emissions whilst we continually work to reduce these at source. To provide reporting confidence we have committed to externally verifying our emissions against the PAS 2060 standard. 
We publish updates on our commitment via our annual Sustainability Report that can be found on our policies page, with a full size version of our 12 point climate action plan.

We aim to:

  • Net zero emissions from direct emissions (scope 1 & 2) by 2025.
  • Continue to reduce mains grid electricity use by 20% and mains gas by 25% as a minimum by 2030 from 2005–06 levels, with the intention to support further reductions through wider energy generation projects.
  • Develop a ‘net positive’ framework accounting for the positive environmental impact of research outputs to balance the negative output of the University’s carbon footprint.

  • Raise awareness and build a carbon community with our staff and student population, including engagement with target and action plan setting. 
  • Be actively involved in projects that seek to encourage and enable large-scale carbon reduction and promote low carbon transitions in the city and nationally.
  • Reduce emissions outside of the University’s direct control (scope 3) to net zero by 2030–50 in line with local and national targets.

Our performance

We have achieved carbon neutrality for all scope 1, 2 and selected scope 3 (water, waste, business travel) in according with PAS 2060 on 31 July 2023 and committed to maintain this to 31 July 2024 for the period commencing 1 August 2022, externally verified by the NQA.
PAS 2060 is an internationally recognised standard which provides a credible means of determining and demonstrating carbon neutrality.
Please note that University accommodation is managed externally by UPP, who calculate and publish their own carbon emissions.
The following chart shows what is covered by our carbon neutrality claim, and progress on our measurement for all scopes. More information on our scopes can be found on our SharePoint site, including recommendations for students and staff on how to reduce your impact at work.
PAS 2060 logo

Carbon offsetting

Carbon reduction is the priority of the University but in order to meet the 2025 Scope 1 and 2 goal, due to the availability of current technology, some offsetting is unavoidable at this time. Where we have offset, we have taken steps to ensure not just quality offsets, but transparency into how the money is being spent through our Qualifying Explanatory Statement (QES)
Our Offset Policy ensures only the highest quality of carbon sequestration is undertaken through third party verification and prioritises local options where feasible. The University encourages students to get involved with this process via their UPSU President who attends the Sustainability Advisory Group.
Offsets are a growing market, and the University has academics and researchers who make an impact right across nature-based sequestration methods. 

Our academics

Our academics have worked with organisations such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN) as part of the UK Peatland Restoration Programme and have provided expert witness to public enquiry on the state of UK peatlands, which resulted in the ICUN Peatlands Code being created. The Plymouth Peatland Research Group have built on this work.   
There are several strands of research and knowledge exchange taking place on net zero and climate action to compliment the work on carbon sequestration, which can be found on our Net-Zero Carbon / Climate Action page. Additional research takes place not just on our soils, but on trees and sea grass.

Carbon Neutrality or Net Zero?

This achievement of carbon neutrality is an important step on our path to Net Zero and drives us closer to our ultimate commitment for all scopes Net Zero between 2030–2050. This overall Net Zero target however will require systemic change from all sectors of our economy, with the entire value chain achieving Net Zero emissions. 
We measure a broad carbon footprint as shown above, which utilises the GHG Protocol for calculations. However, we haven’t included all emissions within our current carbon neutrality declaration. This is because of the control we have over these emissions and the tools that industry currently have available to measure these emissions, with further detail found in our QES. For unavoidable emissions we have chosen to offset. Our Offset Policy covers how we purchase and what we have purchased.

Carbon Literacy

Beyond the environmental degree programmes offered at the University of Plymouth, the Centre for Sustainable Futures works to embed sustainability into the curriculum across educational courses. Students can also find resources on climate change and sustainability on our internal SharePoint pages.
As the University and other institutions develop more actions to tackle the climate emergency, it’s also important that staff have an understanding of climate change. We have developed new sustainability and climate eLearning modules available to our staff and students to improve carbon literacy, as we can only tackle the climate emergency working together as a community. You can find and take our modules and find other climate literacy resources through the call to action below.
Information for staff and students 
The Sustainability Team has piloted Carbon Literacy training and undertaken Climate Fresk during 2023’s Green Week, 23–24 Freshers Fair. During 2024, Climate Fresk also took place for the Women's Network and Earth Day.
Climate Fresk
Climate Fresk during Green Week 2023 underway
Climate Fresk
Generating ideas on reducing impact
Climate Fresk
Reflecting on the climate’s systemic impacts

Get involved

If you are an existing staff member or student, more information on day to day operations and carbon literacy opportunities can be found on our SharePoint site (log in required).
Students can also contact their representatives at the student union, UPSU, to voice feedback on the University’s plans, either via the Sabbatical Officers or the Part Time Environment & Sustainability Officer.
Although technology delivers big energy savings, it's estimated that with your help, behaviour change can deliver at least a 20% saving in emissions. Please see the Get involved page to help us with our ambitious target to be net zero by 2025. 
Students as partners

Discover more

Sustainability is embedded not just in operations across the University but also in our course provision, education methods and research.

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Sustainability courses and programmes
Plymouth offers a range of sustainability themed courses and programmes across many disciplines.

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Sustainability education
Discover how the Centre for Sustainable Futures works to embed sustainability across our faculties.

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Sustainability research
Our Sustainable Earth Institute is about advancing research, knowledge and innovation for a more sustainable Earth.