PRESS RELEASE – 10.12.19 - immediate

Photo shows from left to right; Prof Rebecca Willis, Dr. Emily Heath, Darren Axe and Victoria Hatch [Photo shows from left to right; Prof Rebecca Willis, Dr. Emily Heath, Darren Axe and Victoria Hatch]


A petition with over 2,100 signatures and around 100 comments was handed to the Vice Chancellor on Monday 9th December, calling for Lancaster University to declare and respond to the climate and ecological emergency.

Four representatives from the Lancaster University Climate Emergency Working Group (LUCE) met with the VC Prof. Steve Bradley, Pro-VC Prof. Simon Guy and Director of Facilities Andrew Burgess, and presented the case for Lancaster to aim to become carbon neutral by 2030.

LUCE is a coalition of staff and students who want to see urgent action taken by Lancaster University to avoid climate and ecological breakdown. The Students' Union and all three of the LU staff Trade Unions have backed the campaign, which was initiated by Dr. Emily Heath, a Teaching Fellow in LEC and branch secretary of the University & College Union, a few months ago.

Emily said “We had a constructive meeting with senior management, and discussed next steps towards setting meaningful targets and developing plans for reaching those targets. There was a lot of common ground as we all agreed that the University needs to do much more to reduce its carbon emissions, and that this will require improved sustainability governance, more resources, institutional policy changes, engagement with all departments, and individual behaviour changes. We suggested some 'quick wins' and we will continue to push for these to be implemented soon.”

Undergraduate student Victoria Hatch was one of the four LUCE members who met with the VC. She said: “Like many other young people, I feel angry and scared about what the future holds if we don’t break our addiction to fossil fuels before it’s too late. Although I am disappointed that the VC has not yet agreed to declare a climate and ecological emergency and set a target date for carbon neutrality, it was encouraging that he left the door open for this to happen in the new year after further consideration of options for achieving significant emissions cuts.”

Prof. Rebecca Willis (LEC) researches sustainability governance and is currently advising the UK Government on setting up a national Climate Assembly. She said: “Universities have expertise, global influence, and large financial, human and land resources that could be used to lead the transition to a net-zero carbon society. We are sure that Lancaster will rise to the challenge that its students and staff have set."

Darren Axe co-ordinates the Student Union’s Green Lancaster programme. He said “Lancaster University has supported lots of great initiatives to make our campus more sustainable, but there is much more to be done, including addressing the impact of the University’s procurement of goods and international travel.”

Many universities and local councils around the world have acknowledged the climate emergency, and have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions to net zero by a target date between 2025-2040. UK universities that are leading the way include Bristol, Edinburgh, UEA, Keele, Warwick, Leeds, Bath Spa, Swansea, UCL and KCL.

Several LU departments (e.g. Sociology, Linguistics & LEC) are in the process of making their own climate emergency declarations and/or sustainability commitments.