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Cardiff University declares climate emergency

29 November 2019

Image of Cardiff University main building.

Cardiff University has declared a climate emergency and announced its aim to become carbon neutral by 2030.

A newly appointed Dean for Environmental Sustainability will oversee and co-ordinate the University’s response to the climate crisis.

The University has also revealed that it has fully divested from fossil fuels – a year ahead of schedule – aligning its investment decisions with its commitment to environmental sustainability.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Riordan said: “With today’s statement, we are adding our weight to the global response to the climate emergency.

“We must ensure our voice is heard in the fight against climate change, drawing on our pioneering research to leverage discussions, action and solutions to the climate crisis.

“We must also lead by example and accelerate our plans to reduce our carbon emissions, energy and water use and overhaul our operational activities.

“Our move to full divestment from fossil fuels sends a clear and positive message that we are committed to responsible investment, social responsibility and tackling climate change."

We know these areas are important to our staff, our students and the communities we serve, and we are committed to supporting the global effort to ensure a sustainable future for our planet and all its inhabitants.

Professor Colin Riordan

Professor Mike Bruford, co-director of the University’s Sustainable Places Research Institute, has been appointed as its Dean for Environmental Sustainability to drive forward the declaration and sustainability agenda.

Professor Bruford will build on the University’s positive operational momentum – including a 41% reduction in bottled water being sold through catering outlets since 2017/18 – by developing and delivering its Environmental Sustainability strategy.

He will also focus on transferring research knowledge directly to staff, students and the wider community, ensuring it informs the University’s own activities.

Professor Bruford said: “The climate crisis requires an urgent response and, from now on, we intend to do things differently.

“We must act quickly. Right across the University there are examples of cutting-edge research, new insights and ground-breaking science. This includes the work of the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations - the first such centre to place people at the heart of the fundamental transformation required to tackle climate change.

There are also inspiring ideas from across our staff and student community about how we respond to climate change. We must harness that and work together to help move us on from making this declaration to a comprehensive plan of action.

Over the course of the next year, several University policies will be revised to encourage a reduction in emissions.

The University is also piloting a reforestation program in Borneo to help staff, students and members of the public mitigate their environmental footprint from their necessary air travel.

The first project of its kind at any UK university, Regrow Borneo is a joint initiative between the University’s Sustainable Places Research Institute, its Danau Girang Field Centre in the Kinabatangan rainforest, Malaysia and local NGOs KOPEL and HUTAN.

Regrow Borneo allows donors to invest in local community tree planting initiatives aimed at restoring depleted rainforest and helping save endangered species.

Professor Riordan added: “We are committed to demonstrating leadership in sustainability, and Regrow Borneo is no exception. While we aim to reduce our air travel as much as possible, this program enables us to unite our pioneering environmental research with our ambition to provide our community with every opportunity to make sustainable choices to help reduce atmospheric carbon.”

In declaring a climate emergency, the University has joined with institutions around the world in signing (on 29th November) a Global Climate Letter which recognises the need for a drastic societal shift to combat the growing threat of climate change.

It has also aligned its targets with Welsh Government’s policy to shift the economy away from fossil fuels and make the public sector carbon-neutral by 2030, as well as the Well-being of Future Generations Act, which aims to make Wales more resilient and globally responsible, and provide a more sustainable future for our current and future students.

Minister for Energy, Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “Cardiff University’s world leading research – from low carbon construction to the science of encouraging low carbon lifestyles – will be absolutely critical in our efforts to tackle climate change. I would like to congratulate Cardiff University for taking this bold step today and I hope others will follow their example to accelerate their own journey to net zero emissions.”

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