How does the Climate Change Act 2008 affect colleges and universities? - JISC Legal

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JISC Legal published an FAQ on how the 2008 Climate Change Act affects colleges and universities. See the FAQ below.

How does the Climate Change Act 2008 affect colleges and universities?

The Climate Change Act 2008 requires colleges and universities, directly or indirectly, to take action to reduce carbon emissions in order to contribute to the national targets for carbon reduction. Universities and colleges need to develop a strategy appropriate to their institution. This strategy should include plans for how to reduce, measure, review and report progress on their emissions. The Act makes the UK the first country in the world to have a legally-binding long-term framework to cut carbon emissions. It sets reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions to at least 34% by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050, against a 1990 baseline.

Stakeholders within FE and HE, such as the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), are required by the UK and devolved governments to contribute to these reduction targets. They have in turn placed similar obligations on universities and colleges.

HEFCE, Universities UK (UUK) and GuildHE have published a strategy for carbon reduction for higher education. This includes a sector-level target for carbon reduction in line with UK targets, a requirement for individual institutions to set their own targets and funding incentives, for example, linking capital funding to performance against carbon management plans. The Scottish Government also has an action plan for education.

Some colleges and universities are required by regulations to participate in emissions trading schemes where their combustion units meet the criteria for inclusion. Two examples are the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, enabling sale of surplus tonnes of CO₂ if they do not need all of their allowance, and the Carbon Reduction Commitment Efficiency Scheme, a mandatory emissions trading scheme aimed at improving energy efficiency and cutting emissions in large public and private organisations. Participating institutions are required to monitor energy use, report on their equivalent CO₂ use emissions and then purchase allowances sold by the government to cover these emissions each year. Participants will receive a revenue recycling payment from government, based on relative performance in the scheme as published in a performance league table. More information on this is available from the Department of Energy Climate and Change (DECC).

Reducing carbon emissions as required by the Climate Change Act will have an impact on the decisions colleges and universities make in respect of ICT use. As ICT use within colleges and universities has a large carbon footprint, they need to consider environmentally sustainable ICT practices. Promotion of such practices will be likely to form a part of their carbon reduction strategy. JISC provides support to institutions in the following: calculating their ICT-related carbon footprint, planning how to reduce energy expenditure and carbon emissions directly related to ICT use, and using ICT to develop sustainable ways of working. The Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EUAC) also provides advice, guidance and training on sustainability, environmental management and social responsibility.

There are a range of sustainable ICT practices which may be adopted within colleges and universities, including:

- Use of technologies such as call forwarding and video/web conferencing. These can enable staff to work remotely, therefore reducing the environmental impact of buildings (less office space required) and of travelling to work.

- Considering ‘thin client’ approaches, which reduce lifetime use of energy and materials for any applications that do not require large scale computing power.

- Distributed computing and/or outsourced/shared service solutions to increase low utilisation levels of PCs and servers.

- Creation of more sustainable data centres through purchasing servers with lower power requirements; increasing utilisation rates through consolidation and virtualisation, and by changing physical aspects such as layouts, cooling and power supply.

- Minimising the effects of printing/copying by consolidation onto a smaller number of heavily utilised multi-functional devices and effective print substitution/management.

For further information, please see JISC’s report on Sustainable ICT in Further and Higher Education mwhich provides useful information on good practice in environmentally sustainable ICT.