As part of our Aberdeen 2040 strategy, net-zero features as one of four high-level commitments linked to environmental sustainability, with a target to achieve net-zero before 2040.
We are in the process of developing a comprehensive Net Zero strategy (target 2024) with a series of associated emissions pathways and targets being developed. In the meantime we have begun to populate a register of (already 100+) net-zero related projects and initiatives in areas such as building fabric, heating networks, renewable generation opportunities etc. that will be brought forward as funding permits. In the interim we are aiming for a 25% reduction of Scope 1 & 2 related emissions by 2025 from 2020.
In order to make emissions data more widely available. the University has developed an interactive Sustainability Dashboard that provides information on our emissions across all three scopes, including energy, water, waste, business travel and more. Any queries on the dashboard should be directed to the Sustainability team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Net Zero Commitment
Our Aberdeen 2040 strategy commits the University to achieving net-zero emissions before 2040. Our approach will encompass emissions from all sources.
To reiterate this commitment we have signed the Global Climate Letter and the One Planet Pledge.
The University monitors and reports the carbon emissions resulting from its operations in a number of ways. This section includes information on our statutory climate change reporting for the Scottish Government and links to our previous Carbon Management Plan.
- Public Bodies Climate Change Duties Reporting
Every year, as part of the duty on public sector bodies to report their actions to tackle climate change we, alongside other universities, colleges, local authoirities, NHS trusts and other public bodies, submit a statutory annual report to the Scottish Government.
Details of the PBCCD reporting exercise and all public body reports are available via the Sustainable Scotland Network (SSN) reporting page.
Our reports as part of this exercise are also available via SSN online.
- Carbon Management
Prior to the net-zero commitment made in Aberdeen 2040, our previous Carbon Management Plan (CMP) had outlined a series of commitments and projects to reduce our carbon footprint. Details of the 2016-2021 CMP can be found here. It identified an array of projects to improve energy efficiency across campus and progress against the plan was positive, with reductions exceeding the 20% target within the first two years.
As with much of the sector, the simultaneous expansion of campuses, coupled with demands for energy intensive equipment are a constant challenge. Despite these challenges, incremental improvements help to keep emissions in check, improve energy efficiency, and reduce grid consumption. These include:
- the campus wide installation of PC energy management software;
- the installation of solar panels at Hillhead, our main student residence;
- constant monitoring and targetting to identify energy inefficiencies in buildings;
- projects such as our energy-efficient shared data centre that serves the region's tertiary education sector;
- building upgrades like window replacement, insulation programmes, and proximity sensors on lights;
- the rolling replacement of less energy efficient bulbs with LEDs;
- the completion of our award-winning Passivhaus Nursery building;
- recalibration of our Combined Heat and Power engine resulting in significant energy savings.
Yet for every successful initiative, demands for new equipment or new or refurbished buildings mean the work to embed energy efficiency in all that we do continues.
The Sustainability Team in Estates and Facilities have hosted summer and term-time internships for University students to help enhance our approach to net-zero and to sustainability more generally.
Details of available internships will be shared on the University's careers page.
Net Zero: Scope 3 Student Travel Emissions
As part of the University’s Net Zero benchmarking exercise, a gap was identified in our data for emissions resulting from students travelling to and from the University from around the world to study.
Having identified that there was no agreed sector methodology, the Sustainability Team employed a part-time student intern through the University’s 2022/23 InternPlus Scheme.
Her work resulted in a methodology and associated tool to calculate these emissions with a high level of granularity. This methodology filled a known gap in our Scope 3 emissions totals and added some 10,000 tCO2e to our emissions profile in 2021/22.
The methodology and associated materials were subsequently presented at a sector workshop facilitated by the EAUC and at the 2022 EAUC Conference, with the materials now widely available for all institutions to use and being developed as part of the EAUC’s suite of emissions calculation tools. International Universities are also now investigating its use as a basis for their own methodologies.
Biodiversity: Greenspace Mapping
In the summer of 2023, the Sustainability Team recruited an undergraduate intern to support a Biodiversity Mapping project designed to develop spatial mapping of the land we own which, identifying greenspaces and different habitats. This information is useful in managing our Grounds and Projects, but will also allow the University to develop actionable targets as part of a Biodiversity Action Plan to improve biodiversity within our Aberdeen 2040 commitments.
This 2023 summer internship saw a spatial QGIS map developed from scratch, showing land boundaries and identifying areas of greenspace or developed areas such as buildings. A mapping methodology called UKHab was then to define and map the different types of greenspace e.g., woodland, grassland, scrub, ponds, wetlands, marine and planted beds.
Of the sites surveyed (Old Aberdeen, Hillhead, Balgownie, Foresterhill, Newburgh, and Hall Forest in Kintore), it was identified that around two thirds of University-managed land is greenspace, totalling 59ha. This provides excellent scope for biodiversity improvement on campus, such as reviewing how we manage mown areas to encourage wildflowers, and in turn having a positive effect on declining insect species, such as our local pollinators.