As the first university to declare a climate emergency, back in 2019, the University of Bristol is leading the way on sustainability for education institutions.
As part of our commitment to reaching net-zero carbon by 2030, we’re embedding departmental Climate Emergency Action Plans (CAPs). Following the launch in January 2020, which was stilted by the pandemic, we’re now relaunching the project.
A tailored approach to climate action
Martin Wiles, Head of Sustainability, explains why a tailored, school or departmental approach to climate action is necessary: “We have an eight-point plan to reduce our carbon, but this requires action at every level. Every school and department is different, there’s no one size fits all. As a Russell Group University, labs account for 40% of our energy and waste consumption. The actions needed to reduce carbon in labs are different to what’s needed by, say, the Arts schools.”
Departmental climate action isn’t new to the University of Bristol. Back in 2010, we helped develop and pilot the United Nations award-winning programme ‘Green Impact’, now managed by Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-International). The Climate Action Plans formalize this as part of the strategic planning process, mandating the plans be co-produced across academic, professional services and students, ultimately signed off by senior management.
Turning big ambitions into practical actions
To support academics, students and professional services staff to build their plans, the University of Bristol has formed a partnership with environmental consultancy NETpositive Futures and together they shaped its online Climate Action Planning Tool. Sheri-Leigh Miles, NETpositive Futures co-founder, said: “The people we need to take action aren’t experts in sustainability. We crafted the tool to turn the University’s big ambitions into practical actions for those we need to deliver them.”
The action planning tool enables teams to explore four themes; buildings, consumption, travel and advocacy. A simple set of questions narrows down the challenges users are presented with so they explore only what is relevant to them and has real impact. They then select statements to further tailor to their context, before being presented with suggested actions.
The University recently appointed a Climate Action Plan Officer, Rachel Moonan, to accelerate work with the schools and departments on their CAPs and support continuous improvement. Rachel Moonan, studying an MSc in Management, CSR and Sustainability, said: “By engaging teams pro-actively with climate action, supporting them to create a tailored plan and sharing learning between departments, we can reduce our carbon impact at grass roots”.
Martin Wiles also added: “The data generated by teams using the tool is pivotal. We can see how CAPs are progressing; how many plans are live, what are the stumbling blocks, how effective are the interventions? Then we can provide efficient support and celebrate successes.”
So far, of the 70 plus schools and departments due to create a Climate Action Plan, 34 are written.
For more information on the Climate Action Plans visit School and Division Climate Action Plans | Green university | University of Bristol.