University sets new zero carbon target

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The University has set a target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040 but is already planning how to engage students, staff and other stakeholders to achieve this target earlier – by 2035.

Our Executive Group has agreed the new target following a review of our current emissions, building performance, financial resources and available technologies.

The target applies to scope 1 and 2 emissions (gas, electricity and University-owned vehicles) by 2040 at the latest, with scope 3 emissions (including business travel, emissions from waste and water) targeted for net zero by 2050.

The new target will be a key objective in the University Sustainability Strategy currently being developed by our Sustainability Steering Group. It builds on a carbon emissions reduction target set in 2010, which aimed to reduce emissions by 23% by 2020 and was achieved a year early.

Next steps

A Carbon Management Plan will set out the roadmap for achieving the new target, stating how we will reduce carbon emission across the whole institution, from buildings and operations to teaching and research. Progress will be monitored by our Sustainability Steering Group, chaired by Richard Reece, DVC Education and Student Experience.

Catherine Morris, Environmental Adviser at Kent, comments: While technologies such as renewable energy generation and decarbonised heating systems will play a large part in achieving the target, ultimately, it is people’s behaviours’ and activities that drive the demand for energy. By adopting a whole-institution approach to carbon management, we hope to reduce demand alongside supporting our staff and students to adopt low-carbon lifestyles and to contribute to local, national and global sustainability efforts.’

Getting involved

The Sustainability Team is keen to hear what you think about its sustainability plans. Have your say now via our sustainability consultation, which is open until the end of April.

Staff can also get involved by becoming Futureproof sustainability champions and students have the option to become sustainability ambassadors.

Further information is available on our Sustainability webpages.

Picture shows: John Kingsland, Energy Engineer, Estates Department.

Book Review: What Can I Do (about the climate crisis)? Jane Fonda tells you

Guest post: My name is Hannah Maple and I am a third year Psychology student. Studying this subject has expanded my interests so much. I think it’s really important to learn about the world you live in and understand how your actions influence it.


Jane Fonda is a controversial character but one of her many admirable qualities is how committed she is to elevating voices and influencing causes she is passionate about. Her most recent cause is the Climate Crisis.

Her demonstrations are called Fire Drill Fridays, whereby she and other activists rally in Washington D.C. and commit civil disobedience, risking arrest to stand up for the climate. Their website is full of content from experts on all issues climate: https://firedrillfridays.com.

In the fight to raise awareness she has written a book called “What Can I Do?”. The book outlines the issues raised at the various rallies that took place between October 2019 and January 2020. There can be a lot of confusion about what you, one individual, can do to help the climate crisis and the abundance of issues it refers to. Jane’s book ‘What Can I Do?’ outlines everything so perfectly, step by step of what causes can help and what role you can play.

On reading this book there were so many areas that I didn’t even consider being related to the climate crisis. Ignorance is bliss. But this book has certainly motivated me to get more involved in any way I can, and I just wanted to share the things I have learnt, and encourage you, if you haven’t already, to maybe have a read of Jane’s book.

Some of the issues she raised and what actionable steps we can take:

The Oceans

One of the most common areas discussed when on the topic of climate change is the ocean. The ocean absorbs so much heat as a consequence of global warming and almost half of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean so we need to protect it (https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/ocean-oxygen.html). In addition to the heating of the waters, it is well understood that many fishing practises are unsustainable and damaging to the areas in which they fish, destroying the ocean beds and habitats.

Furthermore, an area I had never heard of or considered before was the unethical employment of these fishing boats and the human trafficking practises that occur on some.

Actionable steps:

– Eat less fish.

– Use less plastic, particularly single-use plastics

– Write to officials to let them know you care about this issue and you expect them to also care.

Water

Access to clean, safe water was recognised by the UN as a human right in 2010 (United Nations, 2010) but there are so many people that don’t have that and it’s predicted that the vital resource is going to become even more scarce. According to WWF, by 2025 it is predicted that two-thirds of the world’s population will face water shortages.

Water supplies are being polluted and others drying up. We need to protect this vital resource, needed to sustain life.

The blue communities project is working hard to support the UN Sustainable development goals (particularly, 1 No poverty, 2 Zero hunger, 3 Good health and wellbeing, and 14 Life below water). The idea is to adopt the mindset that water is a public good, “shared by everyone and is the responsibility of all”. These Blue communities are popping up all over the world. https://www.blue-communities.org/About_the_programme

Actionable steps:

– Buy less plastic water bottles, use refillable bottles.

– Avoid using hazardous house cleaners and pesticides that pollute water systems

The Money Pipeline

While movements are being made towards cleaner energy there are still expansions taking place in the fossil fuel industry and our banks are supporting them. One movement, led by students, encouraging colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuel organisations has had a huge influence on the development of the fossil fuel industry. Divestment and protesting has become a serious threat to the fossil fuel industry and their ability to bring in money. This is a huge success.

Jane lists some of the big banks still investing in fossil fuels but have a look online. Greenpeace’s article: https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/barclays-banks-climate-change-fossil-fuels/

So much was covered in the book, there is no way you could summarise all of it, these are some of the other topics discussed in the book:

– Health and the climate

– War, the military and the climate

– Women and the climate

– Migration and human rights

– Jobs and a just transition

– Plastics

– Fossil fuels

Jane’s book covers a lot of issues prevalent in the US but that doesn’t mean the same isn’t happening here. The particular organisations she raises may not be applicable to us in the UK but there are many organisations here that are doing wonderful things, we just need to go out and find them. For example, Greenpeace https://www.greenpeace.org.uk.

I found Jane’s book really interesting and so inspiring. I hope you have a look https://www.waterstones.com/book/what-can-i-do/jane-fonda/9780008404581

Meet John, the Energy Manager at the University of Kent

My name is John Kingsland and I work within the Estates Department in the Energy Manager role. This means that I have responsibility for managing energy and water use at the Canterbury and Medway sites with an overall aim of reducing the associated carbon dioxide emissions arising from their use.

To achieve this I look at everything from how and where from we purchase our utilities to making sure that our buildings and fittings use energy as efficiently as possible. I also work closely with my colleagues on the Sustainability team on promoting energy efficiency and educating people about the impacts of climate change. In the 5 years I have been in this role, I have noticed a huge shift in people’s attitudes towards climate change. More and more people are realising that reducing our emissions is everybody’s responsibility and not just one we can leave for others to sort out.

With two large and complex campuses and a mix of buildings from residential to commercial and laboratories, calculating our overall energy consumption and carbon footprint is an extremely laborious task. Luckily as an engineer, I’m a dab hand with a spreadsheet and enjoy the numbers side of my role!

Last year we achieved our long-term 10-year Carbon emission reduction target a year early. In 2010, we published a target to reduce our emission by 23% over the next decade. By August 2019 we had achieved a reduction in excess of 29% which is a fantastic achievement given the expansion of the campus over that period.

We are now looking towards the future, setting a new emissions reduction target and developing a new Carbon Management Plan for the University. This has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic but we hope to be able to announce our new commitments very soon.

Work on carbon reduction in the future is likely to involve looking much more at renewable energy sources. Currently the University has six roof top mounted solar photovoltaic arrays, which have a combined peak output of 175kW. The amount of electricity produced exceeded 1% of the University’s electricity consumption for the first time this year. This might not sound like much, but the energy produced each year would be enough to power 50 UK households.

Looking at the medium to long-term, we are investigating the feasibility of wind turbines and a large photovoltaic array on the Canterbury site.

Although when they think about energy saving most people picture solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles, most of the work I do to reducing energy is not visible. Currently, works are being undertaken to improve the energy efficiency of the Central Boiler House. The works in the boiler house are linked to future works on the District Heating System (which provides heating to many of the buildings on campus from a central boiler house) with the overall aim of being able to reduce the flow temperature in the system reducing heat losses. This may also create the option to use alternative and more sustainable sources of heat for the district heating system longer term.

One of the main challenges we face as a University in reducing our carbon footprint is the age of our estate. A large proportion of our building date back to the 1960’s and 70’s and were not exactly designed with energy efficiency in mind. We also have buildings that are listed or sit within conservation areas that have their own restrictions on what we can do. Many of these buildings present very unique challenges, which must be considered individually and bespoke energy saving measures applied.

When we are considering energy saving projects we always look at the payback period. This is how long it will take to recoup the initial costs of the project through subsequent energy savings. Some measures such as installing low energy lightbulbs have a very short payback period (typically less than 1 year) whereas bigger projects with a larger initial outlay such as renewable energy installation, have much longer payback periods often measured in decades rather than years. In order to finance these large-scale projects I am looking at the potential for external funding and possible partnership working to develop projects.