Centre for Effective Learning Environments (CELE)

University funding in England to be linked to carbon reduction


Universities will have to reduce their carbon emissions, and their funding will depend on results. The Higher Education Funding Council for England will require institutions to have carbon management plans in place as of 2011.


Capital allocation funding for higher education institutions in England is to be linked to carbon reduction from 2011.


The strategy announced in January by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), and published jointly by HEFCE, Universities UK and GuildHE, sets ambitious targets for the sector. It expects up to 34% reduction by 2020 and up to 80% by 2050. These targets are set against a 1990 baseline.


The report notes that the CO2 output of the HE sector in 1990 was 1 831 MtCO2 (million tonnes of CO2) and for 2006 it was 2 124 MtCO2, for what are known as scope 1 and 2 sources under a classification developed by the World Resources Institute. Under this classification, scope 1 refers to direct emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the HEI, and scope 2 refers to indirect electricity emissions that are from the generation of purchased electricity consumed by the HEI. Other indirect emissions (scope 3), which are a result of activities of the HEI, for example, commuting by staff and students and air travel, rose from 0.717 MtCO2 in 1990 to 1 237 MtCO2 in 2006.


These figures do not include the impact of procurement, but the policy document on carbon reduction target and strategy just published by HEFCE notes that including procurement could double the sector’s overall emissions figures. HEFCE will be carrying out work on this in future.


Under the strategy, higher education institutions will be required to develop individual carbon reduction strategies, targets and associated carbon management plans.


The CO2 emissions related to buildings are a significant factor as both the strategy document and underlying research report suggest. For other countries this piece of work is illustrative of the issues that the higher education sector faces. Some of the challenges facing HEIs when tackling these issues are not only how to make existing buildings more energy efficient, a challenge in itself, but also how to change the behavioural habits of staff and students. As HEIs look to the future, location in relation to staff and students may well be important, as indirect sources of emissions such as commuting by students and staff has a measurable impact.


For further information on the HEFCE strategy see “Latest publications” section on www.hefce.ac.uk:
Carbon reduction target and strategy for higher education in England (HEFCE, 2010/01),
Carbon management strategies and plans: A guide to good practice (HEFCE, 2010/02),
or contact alastair.blyth@oecd.org.


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