One year on from declaring a climate emergency

Statement from Professor Adam Tickell (Vice-Chancellor) and Acacia Matthews (Guild President at University of Birmingham Guild of Students)

Female and male student walking down a path through a park

The University of Birmingham and the Birmingham Guild of Students are united in our commitment to acting on climate change. One year on from declaring a climate emergency in June 2022, we have continued to take significant steps forward.

The University is firmly committed to sustainability as one of the six pillars of our Birmingham 2030 Strategic Framework. This includes our target to achieve Net Zero Carbon for scopes 1 and 2 by 2035, and scope 3 by 2045. Of huge importance to us is ensuring that members of our community are able to engage with sustainability in a meaningful way, and we wanted to give you an update on just a few of things that have been taking place in the last year:

We are pleased to have invested in new senior posts to lead and coordinate the University’s work in sustainability. These include:

  • Professor David Hannah, as Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Sustainability)
  • Charmaine Morrell MIEMA, CEnv as the University’s Head of Sustainability
  • Dr Julia Myatt as the University’s academic Director of Sustainability Education

Working with a large community of academic and Professional Services colleagues and students who research, study and work in sustainability-related areas, this team are committed to supporting the University in making substantial progress on our sustainability agenda.

In June we celebrated our Green Impact Awards, with 29 teams from across the University recognised for embedding sustainability in their workplace. They saved an estimated 130 tonnes of CO2 through activities including adopting more sustainable travel to work habits, creating collection points for hard-to-recycle waste items, reducing the number of individual deliveries by suppliers, and encouraging biodiversity in green areas across the Edgbaston campus.

For our undergraduate students, we are delighted to be offering a range of internships this summer, in partnership with the Birmingham Institute for Sustainability and Climate Action (BISCA). These internships will enable students to get directly involved with some of our globally-recognised research groups in disciplines across the University. Meanwhile, the College of Life and Environmental Sciences is currently piloting a sustainability-related year out for students. Our aim is to extend this opportunity more widely over time.

We continue to support sustainable approaches to travel. With a remarkable 6,000 responses to our October 2022 travel survey, we have detailed knowledge of how the University commutes. We are a community of active travellers, with 18,000 staff and students walking to campus and an all-time record 11% of staff cycling. Not only do we have cycle classes, hire schemes and an attractive Cycle-to-Work offer, our cycling infrastructure includes a bike shop, over 50 showers and 1,800 cycle parking spaces, with 60 lockable spaces added in the last year alone, and more in the pipeline for 2023/24.

We have made considerable progress on the development of our Net Zero Plan, which is informing the University’s long-term Estates and Campus Strategy – recognising that our buildings are an area in which we can make a significant difference to achieving net zero. Alongside this, we have issued our first carbon accounting report, giving greater insight into our carbon emissions. Recognising that emissions relating to our purchasing goods and services form the largest proportion of our scope 3 emissions, we have launched the Net Zero Carbon Suppliers Tool to those suppliers with whom we spend the most, and are working with them on their road to Net Zero

Ethical Investment

We are aware that a particular area of interest to both students and staff is how and where we invest our financial resources. Since declaring the Climate Emergency, we have continued to reduce investments in fossil fuel companies, and these now make up just 0.22% of our portfolio. This significant reduction is a result of our commitment to pursuing ethical fund options and the considerable work that we have done with our investment companies to reflect this in our investment portfolio. We are committed to transparency in this area, and you can find more detailed information about our approach to investment and our investment portfolio here. You can also read our Ethical Investment Policy .

Through our Sustainability Steering Group, which includes student representation, we will continue to prioritise and take forward our work in this important area in the current year. This includes continued focus on Net Zero Carbon, work with our suppliers, implementing best practice standards for reducing our environmental footprint, and initiatives to support our staff and student community in taking personal action to support sustainability.

Get involved

We would like to invite the community of staff and students to embrace sustainability. You can find out more about how to do that here: get involved.