How can universities respond to climate change?

14th September 2016

What are UK universities doing about climate change and the Paris Climate Agreement?

Universities play a pivotal role in understanding climate change and how to avoid its worst impacts.

The scale and breadth of action being taken across UK universities is impressive. But while most universities are doing many things, there are some major gaps. And universities could all be doing more about climate change.

Whether you’re a student, a member of staff or simply live nearby, you might want to know how your university can help tackle climate change.

Through conversations with academics, students and others, we have published a draft climate change strategy for a university – a template for what a comprehensive response to climate change might look like.

The top things a university can do to tackle climate change

  1. Promote a strong, positive vision of how the world can meet the Paris goals
  2. Focus emission reduction research on how to meet the Paris 1.5 degree goal
  3. Move away from research leading to extracting more fossil fuels
  4. Implement a climate change education programme for all students, also available to staff and residents and businesses in the city
  5. Be part of a global network of Universities committed to meeting the Paris climate goals
  6. Deliver a timetable plan to go zero-carbon across all operations
  7. Divest from all funds from companies involved in fossil fuel extraction by 2020
  8. Ensure only companies with a 1.5 degree-compatible business strategy can attend careers-fairs
  9. Implement a strategy to cope with the climate impacts which can no longer be avoided
  10. Embed responsibility for delivery of this strategy with the University Senior Leadership Team

The full strategy can be found in our briefing UK academic institutions’ response to the Paris Climate Agreement.

Briefing UK academic institutions response to the Paris Climate Agreement

This climate change strategy is a draft and we’re looking for feedback on it and what could be done with it next. If you have a few minutes please complete this survey to give us your feedback and ideas.

What are universities doing about climate change?

We asked 59 UK universities and other research institutions how their climate change plans were changing to reflect the 1.5 degree goal set out in the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015.

It was clear from their responses that most universities see their responsibility on climate change to go far beyond research.

We’re publishing these replies (at the bottom of this page) and the draft climate strategy as a resource for students, academic staff and any others, wanting to engage with their university to take even greater action on climate change.

Things you can do

  • Give us feedback. This climate change strategy is a draft and we’re looking for feedback on it and what could be done with it next. If you have a few minutes please complete this survey to give us your feedback and ideas.
  • Please share. If you know anyone who might find this work interesting, please share it with them.
  • Find out what your university is doing. All the responses we received are available below along with a sample letter we wrote (pdf).

We asked UK universities and research institutions what action they were taking to meet the the new 1.5 degree goal. Their responses are below.

UK university responses to the Paris Climate Agreement (pdfs)


Research Institute responses (pdfs)

Sample letter from Friends of the Earth to academic institutions (pdf)