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What is Newcastle University doing to help fight climate change?

What is Newcastle University doing to help fight climate change?

by Nic

Ranked 3rd in the UK for United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, our University is committed to reducing its environmental impact. 

Learn what Newcastle University is doing to help combat the climate crisis. Engineering student Nic is here to tell us more.

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in some aspect of our environmental impact, which inevitably had an influence on my decision to pursue my chosen course: Electrical and Electronic Engineering. I also started a blog focused on the environment, which led me to write this piece about what Newcastle University is doing to become more sustainable, and what they plan to do in the future.


The move towards sustainability is happening now

Through my daily life as a student, I was made aware of the University’s policy on paper reduction. can’t remember the last time I was handed a piece of paper; in-class handouts are limited and Instead, we are often asked to refer to online resources.

Before writing this blog, I contacted our Sustainability Officer and our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, who have a particular interest in combatting the climate crisis and hold a position whereby changes can be made. Their responses, in addition to the accessible web pages provided by the University, helped me write this post, which I hope gives you clear insight into the hard work which goes into striving to be a sustainable university in the near future. Change is happening now.


Newcastle University's Declaration of Climate Emergency

There is no planet B sign

Newcastle University signed a declaration of a climate emergency in April 2019. The University (along with the campuses in Malaysia and Singapore) has been working to produce a framework to make necessary changes in aid of the proposed goal of net-zero carbon emissions by July 2040A University-wide committee has since been formed to focus on tackling the UN Sustainable Development Goal and working to embed these into our curriculum and research.


We are part of the COP26 Universities Network

Newcastle University is a member of the COP26 Universities Network. a growing group of more than 80 UK-based universities and research centres, which work together to raise ambition for tangible outcomes from the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference in November 2021. The Network's mission is to ensure the UK academic sector plays its role in supporting the transition to a zero-carbon, resilient future.


What is Newcastle University doing right now in regard to sustainability?

Newcastle University Campus

There is so much going on right now, from light fittings being replaced with LEDs and boilers being updated to increase efficiency, to maintaining our ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 standards for our Environmental Management System (EMS) and Energy Management
System (EnMS) respectively. Each certificate requires the University to set periodic objectives, which endeavour to improve energy and environmental performance.

There is a dedicated Sustainable Campus webpage, where you can learn more about the University’s commitment to reduce its environmental impact, the work the Sustainability Team is doing, and the different events taking place. There are also workshops and talks about how students and staff can play their part in increasing environmental sustainability on campus. The University also encourages sustainability within degrees and professions through career talks.

The Sustainability Team can organise tailored workshops around any particular issues and interests You can email.sustainable.campus@ncl.ac.uk to find out more.


What does Newcastle University got planned for the future?

The University decided to bring forward its plans to achieve net-zero carbon emissions from 2040 to 2030. The first stage of the planning was to define which emissions to include. 

All Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions were included in the target, and the University is currently looking at which Scope 3 sources to include.

Defined by GHG, Scope 1 refers to the direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. Scope 2 is indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy. Scope 3 represents all indirect emissions that occur in the value chain.

In 2019, the University’s Carbon Management Plan showed positive changes being made annually and a clear decrease in annual carbon emissions since 2011/12.

The following targets for carbon emissions were set:

  • 43% reduction by July 2020, against the 2005/6 baseline;
  • 30% reduction by July 2021, against the 2009/10 baseline;
  • Net-zero emissions by 31st July 2030.

Besides facts and figures, the plan includes policies and improvements. The Annual Review of Environmental and Energy Policies helps revise business planning, so Heads of Units can consider how they can incorporate carbon reduction and fossil fuel divestment in their annual business plans.

This is a key step in demonstrating the University’s seriousness about sustainability. The aim is to cease to invest in fossil fuel companies by 2021, in particular, those who are directly involved in thermal coal and oil/tar sands exploration, and only invest in socially and environmentally ‘progressive’ companies.


Since the baseline year (2005/6), there has been a 28% reduction in water use CO2e emissions and a 20% reduction in wastewater treatment CO2e emissions.

Aside from the Carbon Management Plan, the University is working on developing sustainability-led events, and multiple events in the lead up to COP26.

Besides these, the Sustainability Team is constantly hosting workshops and events in collaboration with the Newcastle University Student’s Union.


How can we get involved in the Newcastle University initiatives?

Newcastle University is a member of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC). As a University colleague or student, you can register for free EAUC membership.

Students who want to get involved with the University’s aim to become more sustainable can join societies such as the Green Society and the Bee Society, or volunteer with Go Volunteer.

If you want to work on sustainability alongside your studies, the Sustainability Team will try to work with you on your dissertation or project, guiding you, and if possible, providing any facts and figures you require.

I hope this has given you an idea of the work going into making Newcastle University a more environmentally conscious institution. There is so much more information to share, and I hope to do so in the near future!

Newcastle University is at the forefront of research that is driving the transition to Net Zero and fueling green economic growth. Want to learn more about what we can do to help mitigate the impact of climate change? In our COP26 blog series, you can find out about some of the many projects related to climate change going on in Newcastle University and our wider community.