Responding to the climate emergency: how are UK universities establishing sustainable workplace routines for flying and food?

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Abstract

Scope 3 emissions from the UK higher education sector are globally significant, and long-distance air travel and catering are particularly emissions-intensive aspects of workplace routine. They each present complex problems, as transition to low-carbon alternatives requires the reconfiguration of professional practices. This paper examines the sustainability policies of 66 UK universities to establish the extent to which planning and action in these areas are commensurate with climate emergency declarations. The findings indicate that universities recognise their role in creating demand for long-distance travel and sustaining high-carbon diets. However, few have specific emissions reduction targets or action plans that would rapidly and substantially reduce emissions in these areas. Discussion focuses on two core points; first, how greater cohesion in reporting and target-setting can be achieved across the sector to raise the ambition of targets and intervention; and second to identify opportunities for institutions to disrupt and reshape professional practices to reduce emissions in these areas.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalClimate Policy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Jan 2021