University of Sheffield joins the Race to Zero to achieve zero carbon emissions

19th February 2021

The University of Sheffield has joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Race to Zero campaign to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and has set its own target to be carbon neutral by 2038.

The Race to Zero, backed by the UK Government, is a global campaign to mobilise resources for net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.

Professor Sue Hartley, Vice-President for Research, signed the Global Climate Letter for Universities and Colleges associated with the Race to Zero, on behalf of the University. 

The University of Sheffield has long sought to drive down its carbon emissions. As of the 2019-20 academic year, the University has achieved a 47 per cent reduction in gross carbon emissions since 2005-6. This exceeded the University’s targeted 43 per cent cut in carbon emissions over the same period.

The reduction has been driven by a number of factors including efforts to improve energy efficiency on campus, the decarbonisation of the UK electricity grid and the scaling back of campus activities due to Covid-19. 

In joining the Race, the University reaffirms its commitment to climate action as set out in its new sustainability strategy. The strategy, which will guide the institution’s strategic decision making on sustainability, includes the headline pledge that the University will become carbon neutral on campus by 2030 and across all its activities by 2038, exceeding the requirements of the Race to Zero.

Professor Sue Hartley, Vice-President for Research at the University of Sheffield, said: “The Race to Zero is an opportunity for the University to publicly commit to climate action. We are guided by climate science which tells us that we must act swiftly to become carbon neutral. The entire University community is working together to drive down our emissions as quickly as possible.”

In its strategy, the University has also pledged to embed Education for Sustainable Development into all taught courses, use its leading research to tackle modern sustainability challenges and confront high carbon university travel.

Dr Rachael Rothman, Academic Lead for Sustainability and Co-Director of the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield, said: “Our sustainability strategy sets an ambitious, yet achievable, target for the University to become carbon neutral. The strategy will guide our decision making on everything from flights to food, energy to education, ensuring that our activities stand up to the scale of the climate emergency.”

Jordan Weir, University of Sheffield Students’ Union Development Officer, said: “Our students demand radical action in the face of the climate emergency. Joining the Race to Zero is another victory for students.

“We look forward to working closely with the University to achieve our goals and make Sheffield one of the most sustainable research-intensive universities in the country.” 

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