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University supports Government’s climate declaration

02 Jul 2019

The University of Manchester today joins the Government in its declaration of a ‘climate emergency’ and reaffirms our position and commitment to being a world-leader in sustainable development

Brunswick Park

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing our society and the world around us, and we believe it is right that we join with the Government and make a statement now to highlight the extent of this threat.

Our University is guided by principles of social responsibility in everything we do and for many years we have recognised that environmental sustainability is at the heart of our mission.

This has led to global recognition for our work on sustainable development. We’re ranked first in Europe and third in the world for our impact against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and we have produced a comprehensive voluntary report setting out our impacts and plans for further contributions to the SDGs.  

We recognise that the biggest contribution research universities like Manchester can make to the challenge of climate change is through the impact of our research and by engaging policy makers, industry, students and the public on this pressing challenge. 

Between 2009 and 2018 we produced 9,209 publications relating to Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action – representing 4.3% of the UK’s research in this area. 

For example, University of Manchester Tyndall Centre researchers are working with local leaders across Greater Manchester from the public and private sectors to promote informed decisions on mitigating and adapting to climate change.  In 2019, we launched the Manchester Environmental Research Institute.

SCATTER (Setting City Area Targets and Trajectories for Emissions Reduction) is our groundbreaking tool providing city regions with the opportunity to standardise their greenhouse gas reporting, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. This was adopted directly by Manchester City Council to set a series of ambitious new five-year carbon budgets and a commitment to becoming zero carbon by 2038 – 12 years ahead of the UK government. Significantly, we have signed up to play our full role in meeting this target as a key actor in the city region. 

Globally, we’re leading the response to climate change in areas such as climate resilient cities, sustainable selection and design of dams, promoting understanding of the lived experience of climate change in South Asia and ensuring the sustainability of energy systems of the future. 

Our students are supported to take on the challenge of climate change across undergraduate and postgraduate modules. In addition, every new undergraduate student has the opportunity to take our Sustainability Challenge on day two of their arrival at Manchester. We also offer a pioneering new ‘Creating a Sustainable World: 21st Century Challenges and the Sustainable Development Goals’ unit to all students through our University College for Interdisciplinary Learning. 

Climate action is key to our public engagement work. For example, our Manchester Museum has placed creating a sustainable world as one of its two key purposes and highlighted climate change through activities such as its award-winning Climate Control exhibition, its Extinction or Survival Exhibition, by hosting a Youth Action for Climate Change event and by becoming the world’s first Carbon Literate Museum. 

Through its unique Cultural Park Keeper role, the Whitworth is raising awareness of the role of biodiversity and species survival through its connection to the park and its new Natural and Cultural Health Service. At Jodrell Bank our bluedot festival is free of single-use plastic, recycles the vast majority of waste, initiates car-sharing schemes, provides coaches for festival-goers, collects all food waste for composting and provides free water refill stations. 

On campus operations we’ve seen a 33% reduction in carbon emissions since 2007 but we know that more rapid change is needed. This is why we’ve committed to playing our full part in Manchester’s ambitious 2038 zero carbon target. We’ve launched 10,000 Actions, the biggest environmental sustainability initiative in the UK higher education sector, leading us to become the first ‘carbon-literate’ university in the world. 

We’ve also committed to phasing out single use plastics in our laboratories and catering facilities by 2020, enhanced the number of green spaces on campus and invested in supporting sustainable travel initiatives. 

We are the first English Russell Group University to sign up to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. This is the leading global network for investors who are committed to integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into their investment practices and ownership policies and requires us to identify and promote low or zero-carbon investments and commit to transparent published quarterly snapshots of investment shareholdings. 

The growing urgency of action to address climate change is being reflected in our new University vision where we have explicitly made reference to the environment. In this plan, we will build on our commitment to the world’s sustainable development goals and our regional responsibilities to support Greater Manchester’s 2038 carbon targets as we focus on creating a more sustainable future for everyone.   

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell

President and Vice-Chancellor