University commitment to sustainability comes under fire as dedicated carbon management working group fails to meet three to four meetings a year target
The University of Glasgow’s Carbon Management Committee (CMC) has met for the first time in nearly a year, as meetings have been repeatedly cancelled or delayed without any explanation given to members of the committee, the Glasgow Guardian can reveal.
It is understood that the CMC, which last met on the 24 April 2014, reconvened on 18 March 2015 to discuss the progress and priorities of the committee. In February, it was revealed that the CMC had not met for nearly a year, despite an earlier commitment to meet every three to four months.
A whistleblower told the Glasgow Guardian: “It has been suggested that members of the committee are not content with the way in which the CMC is organised and are trying to establish a better sustainability office within the University. However, why should environmental and sustainability concerns be put to one side whilst this is organised?”
The CMC is understood to be a group of staff and student representatives who are meant to meet every three to four months to discuss sustainability issues at the University of Glasgow. According to the University’s own Carbon and Energy Management Policy (2010), the CMC was established: “[…] with a remit to progress all carbon related projects and initiatives to advise SMG and the University Court on the implementation of the CMP and Strategic Travel Plan.”
There are at least seventeen members of the committee, including the secretary of court David Newall and the head of Estates and Buildings Ann Allen. There are two SRC representatives on the committee and three representatives from the Glasgow University Environmental Sustainability Team (GUEST).
The SRC Environmental Officer Luke Evens told the Glasgow Guardian: “It was positive meeting, and there was no strong indication that the group was not working effectively. This is why I was shocked and disappointed that from September 2014 to February 2015, there was no sign of movement on the committee at all. It became increasingly frustrating that there was no clear reason why the group wasn’t meeting, and all parties involved were unsure why. The senior management in charge of arranging the meetings were not responding and communicating as to why it wasn’t happening.”
He added: “In such a key year for climate change negotiations, public institutions should be leading the way for significant environmental sustainability pledges. Divestment from the fossil fuel industry over 10 years is simply not enough, and unfortunately, without the Carbon Management Committee meetings, there was no forum to discuss what the University should be doing to cut its environmental impact.
“The fact that so many individual environmental projects within the University depend on the CMC’s subsistence makes it baffling that they decided to withhold the meetings without any communication. The senior management should be held accountable for this and inform the students as to why the CMC has not been a priority for the past 11 months.”
A spokesman for the University told the Glasgow Guardian: “The carbon management committee of the University of Glasgow last met in March and will next meet in June. One aspect of the work is to oversee the activities of GUEST, which the University – through the Carbon Management Committee – is funding with £40,000 this year.
“The University of Glasgow is committed to reducing our carbon footprint and we are doing all that we can to make our campus as environmentally friendly as possible. We have made substantial investments towards this, including a combined heat and power project which is expected to deliver major savings both in energy costs and in carbon emissions. We are also engaged in a comprehensive campus development which will see many of our older buildings replaced with more energy efficient facilities.”
Speaking after the meeting on 18 of March 2015, Evens explained to the Glasgow Guardian: “It seems that the CMC is now going to be continually meeting as hoped, with the progress on the new seconded position tasked with reforming the Environmental Sustainability Group. This person will head a new working group, [to which] an SRC representative was not initially invited. After question[ing], one SRC member will now be invited to sit within the group.
It is understood that there will be another meeting of the CMC in June to discuss the progress made by GUEST and the new Environmental Sustainability Working Group. Evens is understood to be concerned by the University’s decision to participate in an “orchestrated boycott” of the People and Planet League (formerly the Green League), which is the only organisation in the UK which assesses the environmental policies and performance of universities. According to Evens, the University cited concerns with the methodology as the reason for the boycott.