Email sent to the VC Steve Bradley, PVC Simon Guy and Director of Estates Andrew Burgess by Emily Heath, Rebecca Willis, Darren Axe and Victoria Hatch, who met with them on behalf of the LUCE Working Group on 9.12.19.

Date: 10 December 2019
Subject: Climate Emergency - meeting summary and next steps

Dear Steve, Simon and Andrew,

Thank you again for meeting with us yesterday. As promised, we attach the comments made by some of the 2,142 petition signatories, demonstrating wide support for urgent action.

We were pleased to hear that environmental sustainability will be a high priority for the University as it develops its new strategy in 2020. We look forward to some real commitments and targets being set in the New Year. It’s good to know that there are plans to make this the theme of the next ‘Big Conversation’ event (date TBC), and to discuss the values that will feed into strategic planning at the management Away Day on 8 January.

We have summarised below the main issues that were discussed yesterday, and then suggested some next steps towards implementing the six key demands in our petition.

Key points discussed in the meeting:

Good progress was made on environmental sustainability at LU a few years ago, enabling the target for Scope 1 & 2 emissions reductions to be met 2 years early (in 2018). However, in the last couple of years it hasn’t been a high priority, and LU has not delivered on its 2012 target of producing an Environmental Sustainability Strategy.

There are plans in the pipeline for a second wind turbine and solar farm. This offers potential for Scope 1 & 2 emissions to be substantially reduced (to zero?) by 2025.

There have been big increases in our Scope 3 emissions in recent years, including from business travel by plane, and commuting by single-occupancy cars. A 'Task & Finish Group' is being set up this week and will make recommendations for reducing these travel-related emissions. It was noted that: (1) increasing car parking provision is not feasible or desirable; (2) planning permission for future developments will be dependent on reducing car-based commuting; (3) LU needs to work more closely with local Councils and Stagecoach to ensure that transport infrastructure encourages a modal shift towards cycling and bus use; (4) charging more for car parking and making bus travel much cheaper (ideally free!) would encourage a modal shift; (5) very little has been done to curb academic flying, and significant reductions could be made here by making alternatives easier and normal, and by implementing a policy to deter flying to destinations in the UK and Northern Europe; (6) carbon offsetting schemes (e.g. more tree planting) could be used to mitigate emissions that can’t be eliminated entirely, but caveats noted.

There are opportunities for financial savings (by reducing energy, waste, time spent travelling, etc) as well as carbon savings.

There are also big opportunities for partnership working and community engagement. One example of this is the National Lottery Climate Community Fund which Green Lancaster and the Local Food Partnership were independently planning to apply to. They would prefer to work together rather than compete with each other - this could be achieved by LU increasing funding for GL, which could then be used as match funding for a community-led NLCCF bid.

Responsibility for emissions reductions could be devolved to departments (i.e. set a carbon budget, reducing annually towards the ultimate target, and distribute it fairly whilst also ensuring that institution-wide systems are fit for purpose to support this).

Following up on the six key demands of our petition:

  1. Formally and publicly declare a ‘climate and ecological emergency’, recognising that this emergency transcends other concerns and ‘business as usual’.

    This is an important first step towards setting a new agenda. Many other institutions have already done this. Of course it does need to be followed up urgently with action, and we suggested a few 'quick wins' that would assure the LU community that progress is being made.

  2. Commit to a target of carbon neutrality by 2030.

    This could be disaggregated into separate targets for Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. E.g. absolute zero scope 1&2 emissions by 2025, net zero travel and transport emissions (part of Scope 3) by 2030, and net zero total Scope 3 emissions (including from procurement) by 2040.

  3. Create mechanisms (e.g. public assemblies, action-focused working groups, curriculum changes, transparency of data) to engage staff, students and the wider community in shaping and implementing the necessary emergency response, and holding the University to account.

    Ensure robust environmental sustainability governance structures are in place at senior level and embedded in Faculties, Departments and Colleges.

    Commit to Faculties and Departments producing Environmental Sustainability Plans forming their contribution to the University Environmental Sustainability Plan, and allocate resources to enable this.

    Commit to annual monitoring and public reporting on LU Scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions.

  4. Appoint a senior member of University Management with the responsibility for achieving this target (e.g. a Pro Vice-Chancellor for Environmental Sustainability)

    We welcome the fact that Simon Guy now has responsibility for env sustainability (as well as digital and global development). However, more capacity will be needed to oversee this huge area of work.

  5. Allocate sufficient resources (including staff and project funding) to develop and implement a rapid decarbonisation action plan which covers ‘Scope 3’ emissions (including those from waste, business travel, commuting, procurement and investments) as well as ‘Scope 1 & 2’ emissions associated with heating, electricity and vehicle fleets.

    Produce an updated LU Carbon Management Plan incorporating Scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions targets (as above).

  6. Grasp the opportunity presented by the University’s rural setting and extensive land holdings at Bailrigg/Hazelrigg/Forrest Hills to enhance native species biodiversity and sustainable agriculture.

    Use LU land holdings for renewable energy generation (solar PV, etc) and scale up tree planting.

    Use living lab to innovate and showcase carbon reduction projects and initiatives, including sustainable food production — the NLCCF bid is a great opportunity to do this.

Best wishes,

Emily, Rebecca, Victoria and Darren