Leeds University scores highly for green impact

The University has been awarded a ‘first class award’, scoring 100% for environmental policy but 0% for ethical investment

The University of Leeds has been named one of the key universities producing environmental research.

It was amongst a number of higher education institutions dominating this research field following the Paris Agreement. The University of Oxford was also present from the UK, with Utrecht University of the Netherlands leading the way in terms of publications with the most impact.

The University of Leeds published 1,507 publications between 2011 and 2015 on the issue of a greener world, with 1,083 authors involved. Furthermore, it was found that several of the most cited articles have authors from a number of other universities, highlighting the impact of collaboration in environmental research.

On the other hand, this research is not translating into actual change.

People and Planet has revealed over 75% of universities in the UK are missing their carbon targets, meaning just one quarter are on track to meet goals to reduce carbon emissions for 2020. This is the fourth time the group has recorded universities are set to miss their targets, which are legally binding. Universities are obliged to reduce their carbon emissions by 43% by 2020.

This has been blamed on a lack of government support for public sector sustainability, specifically on energy-saving schemes still not formalised within Parliament. People and Planet have said “the landscape looks bereft of any significant support or incentive for sustainable development in universities in England.” This is following the loss of a number of schemes in 2010 which included things such as the student green fund.

Leeds University was awarded a ‘first class award’ in People and Planet’s Higher Education league tables, the criteria for which included factors such as employment of dedicated sustainability staff and divesting from investment in fossil fuel companies, particularly relevant to Leeds due to the university’s decision to reject calls to divest from fossil fuels earlier this year.

However, it was not in the top 10, and came 23rd in the table, with Nottingham Trent University winning the top spot. This may have been for things such as their new carbon negative building opened earlier this year. Their environmental manager, Grant Anderson, also said “we made it a formal requirement that all of our courses incorporate at least one of the 17 UN sustainable development goals.” Following on their heels was Brighton University, who had made sustainability one of its core values, reduced its carbon footprint and recently installed 893 solar panels.

There are now fears that a lack of progress towards sustainability will be worsened, particularly with new government policies. For example, environmental sustainability has been removed from the annual grant for higher education funding.

The University of Leeds’ commitment to sustainability has been broken down into factors upon which it was assessed. It was given a 100% score on environmental policy, yet 0% in ethical investment, suggesting there is still work to be done. All information was taken from publicly available sources, and more information is available.

Rabeeah Moeen

(Image: University of Leeds)

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