University of Aberdeen in global pledge to take climate action ahead of COP26

The University of Aberdeen is one of 1050 universities and colleges from 68 countries that have pledged to half their emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 at the very latest.

The pledge was announced today (28 October) at the Times Higher Education Climate Impact Forum, showing the education sector’s leadership ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.

Universities and colleges have signed up to the Race to Zero for Universities and Colleges, which is an initiative led by EAUC – The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education and Second Nature with support from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The initiative recognises the substantial role of the education sector in the global Race to Zero and the influence that universities and colleges have to shift mindsets, influence lifestyle choices, and instil sustainability values and green skills into the leaders of tomorrow.

By setting progressive targets, the initiative can have far-reaching impacts well beyond campuses. As hubs for research and innovation, universities can scale up the role of higher education in the green transition.

Welcoming the initiative, University Senior Vice-Principal Karl Leydecker, who leads on Sustainability at the University, said:

“I am delighted that the University has signed the Race to Zero for Universities and Colleges pledge, which underlines our institutional commitment to show leadership in working for the sustainable future of our planet.

“Through our Aberdeen 2040 Strategy we have made a commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions before 2040, and we have already seen a 34% reduction in recorded emissions associated with our energy use in our recent five-year Carbon Management Planning period.  Of course, there is still much to do to deliver our net zero commitment, and we are in the process of transitioning to a longer-term net zero strategy.

“The strength of our academic and institutional sustainability activities is reflected in the most recent Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, where we were ranked among the top 60 universities in the world in terms of our positive impact on society, based on our contribution to the achievement of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”

Nigel Topping, appointed by the UK Government as the High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, said:

“Higher education institutions have the power to redesign the future. Not only are universities, colleges and schools committing to ambitious decarbonisation plans; these institutions also have the capacity - and indeed the responsibility - to support and educate our leaders of tomorrow. It's fantastic to see so many higher education institutions joining Race to Zero and I urge those who are not yet in to commit and take action now."

Iain Patton, CEO of EAUC said:

“As anchor, catalytic and cross-sector collaboration builders in our communities, institutions must take on a societal climate leadership role. It is our universities and colleges which have to be at the forefront of zero-carbon innovation, researching circular and clean production, teaching green skills and demonstrating innovative fossil-free campuses. The profile of universities and colleges committing to emissions reduction and net zero has never been higher. But with commitment, comes accountability and the Race to Zero brings this - allowing students to hold their institutions to account.”