Climate Commission launch Climate Action Toolkit to help Vice-Chancellors, Governors and Senior Leadership Teams in universities in tackling the climate emergency 

The Climate Commission for Higher and Further Education Students and Leaders is delighted to announce the launch of the Higher Education Climate Action Toolkit at the Universities UK  Conference – The role of universities in tackling the climate emergency. 

With 91% of students being fairly or very concerned about climate change, it is essential university executives take action seriously to meet student needs. 

The first of its kind, the Toolkit identifies HE-specific critical elements Vice-Chancellors and Governors should consider in order to advance sustainability and respond to the climate crisis. 

The critical elements identified in the toolkit will support universities to:  

  • Prepare staff and students to cope, thrive and move responsibly in a changing  world, for example equip students with employable skills  
  • Protect biodiversity  
  • Work toward climate and social justice  
  • Lower and eliminate scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions 

The Climate Commission, a unique partnership between Association of Colleges, EAUC - The  Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, GuildHE and Universities UK, is coordinating action across the further and higher education sector to produce a clear,  consistent and cohesive response to the climate emergency ahead of COP26. The HE Climate  Action Toolkit, following on from the successful FE Climate Road Map to support colleges, serves as one of the Climate Commission’s key outputs, providing an excellent path to strengthen climate action within the sector. 

The Toolkit will be a continually evolving resource and it adapts to new information and climate understanding. It offers universities the opportunity to identify the elements that should be considered when evaluating the sustainability practices within their institutions, as well as adequate climate action responses and resources. We encourage all universities to use the Sustainability Leadership Scorecard to self-assess where your strengths and weaknesses are and to develop a gap analysis action plan. 

The Climate Commission is calling for all universities to commit to the Global Climate Letter for  Universities and Colleges, which is part of the UN Race to Zero, to show sector leadership in the lead up to COP26. 

Marta Crispo, PhD student at the University of Sheffield and Student Climate Commissioner  speaking at the UUK conference, said;

“Students are the heart and soul of the further and higher education sector. Together, we make up 7% of the UK population. We will have a huge impact through our lives and careers on the sustainability of the world. Thus, it is important to involve us in the co-creation and decision-making process of your strategy. It is our future at stake, and we want to have a say on how to shape it and how universities prepare us for the changing climate. We are the ones that are inheriting pollution, melting ices and extreme Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education weather events. As students, we want to change this picture and make the world a better place. Plus, I am sure we will keep the institution’s targets always ambitious! We are a powerful group that can help in the implementation of the strategy, there are many passionate  students already working towards the sustainability of our campuses and we urge universities  to engage with us as they adopt the Toolkit.” 

Julie Tam, Deputy Director at Universities UK said,

“The HE Climate Action Toolkit provides Vice-Chancellors and Governors with a clear path to tackling the climate crisis through taking action within UK universities. UUK will be urging our members to adopt the Toolkit at the  highest level and to engage with their students to co-create solutions and opportunities.” 

Judith Petts, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Plymouth and Climate Commissioner said, 

“The Climate Commission are delighted to provide a valuable tool to further support the actions universities are already taking and to help them take the next steps that are so needed as we face the challenges and opportunities from the climate crisis. As the UK hosts  COP26 this year, this is the time for universities in the UK to show we are leading the way on  a global stage.”  

Access the HE Climate Action Toolkit 

Most of the critical elements outlined in the Toolkit have been recommended by a team of academics and sustainability professionals at the University of the West of England, including  Chris Donnelly, Dr. Georgie Gough, Kirsti Norris, Paul Roberts, Vicki Harris and Professor Jim  Longhurst, Climate Commissioner and Assistant Vice-Chancellor at UWE. 

The Toolkit was designed in partnership with award-winning management consultancy, Nous  Group. 

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