On Friday 20 September, following the lead of numerous organisations and local governments, the University declared a climate emergency. To meet this challenge, Warwick “aims to reach net zero carbon from our direct emissions and the energy we buy by 2030,” with the further goal of net zero emissions by 2050. The first goal refers to so-called scope 1-2 carbon neutrality, which encompasses direct emissions produced by Warwick, as well as indirect emissions generated by energy we purchase. The second goal (‘scope 3’ neutrality, or zero total emissions) only puts the University in line with the binding legal target of the whole of the UK.
While we welcome the University’s recognition of climate breakdown, it is clear that its proposed goals are simply not ambitious enough, given the scale of the crisis we face. Far larger organisations have committed to scope 1-2 carbon neutrality by 2025. And reducing emissions by 2050 is too late to avoid potentially catastrophic levels of global heating. Furthermore, the University’s own position –as both a regional hub and an international educational institution – requires it to take a much more robust role in leading the fight against climate injustice.
This spring our branch brought a motion to UCU Congress to commit all our institutions to achieving “‘scope 3’ carbon neutrality by 2030.” This means a commitment to eliminating all indirect emissions that occur in an institution’s value chain, including emissions associated with business travel, procurement, waste and water. Such emissions make up the greatest share of Warwick’s footprint. We must undertake a wholesale review of the University’s processes, plans and relationships in order to begin decarbonising at the scale and speed required by this emergency.
We have other concerns as well. The University’s commitment to net neutrality means that it doesn’t necessarily need to reduce its emissions in total, but can instead just offset them through various schemes. It’s worrying too that the University has hedged its bets by announcing that it will meet its commitments only if “national governments (and our partners in local and regional policy making) deliver on their commitments.” We want to see the University play a role in actively leading, not simply following, a just-transition campaign to a cleaner, fairer society.
What does this look like? To us, it requires a genuine transformation in the way the University runs and operates. Among other things, it requires an acknowledgement of Warwick’s complicity in the climate crisis – local as well as global – and its avoidance of real consultation with the people who make the University what it is: staff, students, and the local community. The recognition of an ‘emergency’ clearly demands a different approach from business as usual.
In addition to achieving scope 3 neutrality by 2030, we call for the creation of an ongoing shared governance platform with UCU, Unite, Unison, the SU, and other representative bodies on campus to create a genuine leadership role for the university on climate breakdown. This will involve more than just technical targets; it will require, as any campaign to renovate Warwick’s partnerships must, a commitment to ethical investment, workers’ rights and lasting collaborations with the surrounding community. A good place to start would see the University lobbying the Home Office to end its hostile environment policy and to open the doors to climate migrants. And there is much more to be done – locally, nationally and internationally.
For these reasons, we remain fully committed to Friday’s climate strike and urge our members to attend the protest, on Friday 27 September at noon outside of Senate House. We reiterate our demand that the University step up and show leadership in the fight for a just transition to a genuinely sustainable society.