The end of 2015 seems an apt time to reflect on some of the progress the CNU have made this year, and what you can do to get involved in 2016. In September we hosted a public event “A local solution to the Global Climate Crisis” which involved talks from author and sustainability expert Mike Berners-Lee and local MEP Linda McAvan, as well as contributions from the network as well. In particular, members of the network prepared talk given by Prof. Fionn Stevenson, which highlights the progress and failures of the University so far in cutting total carbon emissions.
Overall, Fionn showed that while there is initiatives and targets in place for the University to cut its emissions by ~40% by 2020, progress has stalled and so far the total emissions has seen no notable change. This of course does not mean that the University has done nothing (student and staff numbers have steadily grown), but even by the minimum standard (the HEFCE targets) our University is clearly falling far short. The biggest contribution to these emissions is University buildings, and in particular the electricity consumption of these buildings. Fionn demonstrated that sustainability needs to be a top priority at the planning stage, so that new buildings are carbon neutral or near neutral, and have greater longevity than the current stock.
In addition to this grassroots effort, representatives from the network have met with the Vice-Chancellor Keith Burnett and the Carbon Management group in order to convey the importance of these issues, and that more needs to be done by the University. We saw a symbolic step in the right direction in the news that the University had divested from fossil fuel companies, and the VC was very receptive to our message. It is clear that for this network to help the University substantially reduce its emissions, there needs to be strong commitment and unification of people at all levels, including students and staff.
We hosted a follow-up open meeting on December 17th, which amongst other things, considered what had changed (if anything) following the COP21 meeting in Paris. Following the first open meeting it was decided that this was the most enjoyable and productive format for future meetings, and that these should take place approximately once a month. If you are interested in coming along to the next one in January, keep and eye on the events page, either on this site, or on facebook.
Wishing you all a very happy 2016!
Carl Whitfield (Media Officer)