University of Glasgow asks for student input in climate crisis strategy

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Anna Wood
Writer

The University of Glasgow has unveiled their climate strategy and are offering an open consultation for students to provide feedback.

The University of Glasgow announced an open consultation on their forthcoming climate strategy on 11 February in the form of an online questionnaire on the University website.

The survey, which is open until 20 March, is directed towards students and staff at the University, and allows users to respond to the current goals and targets the University is setting itself in response to the climate crisis. Participants will also be able to highlight the areas which they feel have been overlooked.

In December 2019, the University court approved the draft paper “A Dear Green Place – Towards a Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan for the University of Glasgow”. The paper outlines the University’s plan to become a carbon-neutral organisation by 2035, and describes the key strands of the University’s climate crisis plan as engaging the community, promoting efficiency, governance and policy, improvement initiatives, and building resilience.

The University of Glasgow became a signatory of the Sustainable Development Goals Accord in 2017, which contains clauses relating to limitations of environmental damage, and as a Scottish institution, is also legally bound by the Climate Change (Emission Reduction Targets) Act 2019, which commits Scotland as a whole to reducing its emissions to net-zero by 2045. The University also officially declared a climate emergency in May 2019.

Currently, there’s still more action to be taken if the University is to meet its projected targets, and the plan itself acknowledges that it will not meet the projected targets for 2020/2021, such as having a 20% reduction in emissions from 2015/2016 levels. This is largely because of an increase in the number of international flights taken by University staff members.

In the outlined climate crisis strategy, there is an expectation that any shortfalls in terms of the targets will be filled in with the use of carbon offsetting and other “off-site” initiatives. However, the use of carbon-offsetting as a way of reducing emissions has been criticised by some who argue that the practice allows organisations to continue with “business as usual”, rather than addressing the root cause of their emissions.

While this new strategy for tackling the climate crisis is certainly the University’s most ambitious to date, previous efforts have also shown a commendable engagement with the issue of a heating planet, such as the 2018 Climate Change Adaptation Plan, designed to be implemented over a 10-year period, which was released by the University’s Sustainability Working Group. There are many similarities between this report and the newly released climate crisis strategy, with the main differences being the more recent report’s focus on numerical targets for emissions reduction, and the use of more urgent language when describing the climate crisis.

A spokesperson for the University’s branch of Extinction Rebellion said: “While we welcome any University plans to improve on sustainable practice, the sad truth is that what has been proposed is not near enough, or soon enough. The range of the University’s strategy does not reflect their own declaration of a climate emergency. We are also saddened by the continued lack of student and staff accountability in the making of these decisions.”

The survey is accessible on MyGlasgow and is accepting submissions until 20 March.