University of Birmingham: University of Birmingham declares climate emergency

The University of Birmingham has a long track record in recognising and addressing global sustainability challenges. Sustainability is one of the six pillars of our 2030 Strategic Framework, which sets out our commitment to use our expertise, partnerships, and innovation to make a major global contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As part of this, we are working to achieve net-zero carbon, on and off-campus, by 2035 for scopes 1 and 2 and no later than 2045 for scope 3.

We recognise that more needs to be done and more quickly to keep the increase in global temperature below 1.5 degrees, thereby reducing the worst impacts of climate change. We recognise that the world is in a climate emergency; scientists, including those here at Birmingham, continue to warn that unless more is done, there will be catastrophic results for our world. We are committed to using our education, our research, our facilities and our campus to make a difference.

This is why we are joining many others in declaring a climate emergency.

Our declaration is grounded in meaningful action, drawing on our role as a responsible civic institution for Birmingham, and as a global university with a physical presence in the UK, Dubai and China:

Keeping 1.5°C Alive sets out how research at the University is powering climate action. Our research is exploring cleaner energy and transport; improving policy; generating better, more sustainable technologies; and improving air quality. Most recently, we launched our Institute for Sustainability and Climate Action, a new collaborative platform to nurture Birmingham’s research expertise and develop meaningful partnerships in areas including: energy transition; clean transport; adaptation and resilience; nature, air pollution, water and forests; business, finance and law, and built environment.

We are working with policymakers to address the global challenge of climate change through transforming health, environment and society, and with industry partners to ensure working practices become truly sustainable. We are signatories to the UN Race to Zero global campaign, which aims to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions and investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.

We are educating the next generation of climate scientists and climate-conscious citizens by embedding climate impact in all our programmes, launching a new degree programme in Global Environmental Change and Sustainability, developing new fellowships focused on sustainability and climate issues, and creating opportunities for our students to utilise their entrepreneurial skills to develop new ideas for tackling global challenges.

We are changing our infrastructure to make our campuses smarter – and aspire to become among the most sustainable in the world. Our fleets are already using 51% alternative fuels, we are increasing our charging points on campus and where possible, we source our food locally to reduce carbon emissions. We have made significant steps towards identifying and analysing the data we need to understand our progress towards our sustainability goals, and are committed to transparency in sharing our progress towards net zero.

We recognise that sustainability is everybody’s responsibility, and as a community of staff and students, we are already making a difference through our behaviours and practices. some of our community are more knowledgeable than others but all of us have a role to play. There is more that we can and will do, from travelling to work more sustainably, switching off lights and power, avoiding waste, and recycling.

We also know that it is not just our behaviours but those of the organisations we choose to work with that matter. We are committed to transitioning to a sustainable future and a low carbon world in line with the Paris Agreement, and work with similarly minded businesses which enables us to influence change. For example, over the last five years our University Responsible Investment Policy has reduced our investments in fossil fuels from 10% in 2018 to less than 0.5% in 2021.

As we renew and strengthen our commitment to tackling the global climate emergency, we encourage our whole University community – our staff, students, and alumni, to join us, and use our combined influence for positive sustainable change.

By declaring a climate emergency, we recognise that we need to do more and do it more quickly if we truly are going to help the world reduce the impacts of climate crisis.