Universities and Colleges consider carbon offsetting in move to net-zero

26th January 2021

How can Carbon Offsetting help UK Further and Higher Education Institutions achieve net-zero emissions?

The EAUC and the COP26 Universities Network are pleased to launch the new guidance on offsetting to support the development of further and higher education offsetting policies.

The COP26 Universities Network are a growing group of more than 50 UK-based universities and research institutes working together to help deliver an ambitious outcome at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021. Climate experts from six leading UK HE institutions contributed to this guidance to support universities and colleges in their journey to reach net-zero.

Authors of the briefing stress that these institutions have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in the move towards a net-zero future. Ambitious plans to reduce carbon emissions will need to be accompanied by some offsetting activity. 

As a result of the recommendations from the guidance EAUC are piloting a sector-wide offsetting initiative called Carbon Coalition.

Prof Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, University of Leeds said:

“The further and higher education sector has an opportunity to showcase how businesses can meet the net-zero emission challenge and turn targets into actions. One of the thorniest issues is carbon offsetting. Can offsets help achieve our net zero goals, and, if so, how? Maybe we shouldn’t be using them at all? Our briefing: authored by both academics and practitioners from across our brilliant UK institutions proposes a way forward for our community to club together and show the way in time for COP26.”

Fiona Goodwin, Director of Operations & Planning, EAUC and co-author said:

“The EAUC are grateful for the expertise and knowledge of the authors to bring this essential guidance to help universities and colleges create robust policies in offsetting. Following the recommendation from the authors, EAUC are delighted to announce we are establishing a sector wide offsetting coalition called Carbon Coalition. This will have a scientific advisory board to recommend offsetting projects proving institutions credibility and piece of mind that projects they invest in adhere to these principles. We look forward to working with the sector on this vital work.”

Key Messages
  • Reducing emissions must always be the priority before considering offsetting as part of a net-zero strategy
  • Institutions should establish robust principles to justify which emissions can and cannot be offset
  • Offset schemes must be carefully assessed and should align with the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Prioritise carbon removal offsets over emission reduction offsets
  • Consider social and biodiversity related impacts
  • A progressive transition to effectively permanent carbon storage needs to be central
  • Emission reduction offsets, in particular, are perceived as problematic by some
  • The Further and Higher Education sector would benefit from forming a coalition - this is being established by the EAUC
  • Standardised reporting across the sector will help track progress towards net-zero
  • Travel emissions, including student flights, should be included in institutional emission reporting
  • Explore potential educational opportunities
How can carbon offsetting help our institutions achieve net zero emissions? – Share your views in this consultation to help us provide the adequate support the sector needs to develop and deliver effective offsetting policies.

We welcome you to attend a webinar on 28th January to find out more about the guidance and the sector wide coalition. Book here.
Download the briefing document – How can carbon offsetting help UK Further and Higher Education institutions achieve net zero emissions?

Read a blog on HEPI from two of the authors, Piers Foster & Eli Mitchell-Larson.
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