Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Climate change

The world’s leading climate scientists gave the most urgent call yet for countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, concluding that limiting global warming to 1.5℃ requires rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.

Climate top banner 2017-18 SRS reporting

The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 (2018) warned of the significant risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people due to increasing temperatures.

Climate strategy

To address this global challenge and support Scotland’s transition to a low carbon economy, the University is committed to become a net zero carbon university by 2040. The University’s Climate Change Strategy 2016, sets out a whole institution approach, including the need for further research and teaching on climate change issues; as well as the need to reduce operational carbon emissions and investing responsibly.

An annual implementation plan coordinates activities to support the delivery of the University’s objectives. Over the last year the University has worked to renew its approach to biodiversity and develop a new climate adaptation framework. Both of these strategic documents will be published in 2019, making visible the current efforts of the University and also extending actions for the benefit of staff, students and the wider community, including biodiversity within the city of Edinburgh.

In 2017/18, the University’s Combined Heat and Power Energy Centres generated 31GWh of electricity and 72GWh in heat. A new CHP Energy Centre at the University’s Easter Bush Campus became operational and over the next year buildings on the campus will move over to CHP electricity and heat generated.

The University’s grid electricity continues to be procured via our energy supply contract from Guaranteed/Certified renewables sources (since April 2016). All grid electricity is backed by the Renewable Electricity Guarantee of Origin Certification.

The Renewable Energy and Low Carbon Options Review Group, established to review what further investments in renewable technologies the University could make delivered its recommendations in 2017.

In December 2017, the University secured £5 million funding for energy efficiency and sustainability projects from the Scottish Funding Council. This funding will support plans to increase the amount of renewable energy across University campus, in particular the installation of solar photovoltaic panels.

Zero by 2040

Carbon emissions 

Absolute carbon emissions

The University’s absolute carbon emissions have decreased from 2016/17 due to a range of factors. Carbon emissions from electricity consumption have decreased across the University's academic estate and accommodation by an average of 20 per cent, while natural gas has seen a slight increase compared to 2016/17. The grid emission factor for electricity, which decreased further over the last year, also contributed towards a decrease in emissions associated with electricity consumption. Further carbon efficiencies have been achieved through the Sustainable Campus Fund Projects, Scottish Funding Council Projects, energy engagement programme and expansion of the University’s Combined Heat and Power Network.

Absolute carbon emissions

The University’s absolute carbon emissions have decreased from 2016/17 due to a range of factors. Carbon emissions from electricity consumption have decreased across the University's academic estate and accommodation by an average of 20 per cent, while natural gas has seen a slight increase compared to 2016/17. The grid emission factor for electricity, which decreased further over the last year, also contributed towards a decrease in emissions associated with electricity consumption. Further carbon efficiencies have been achieved through the Sustainable Campus Fund Projects, Scottish Funding Council Projects, energy engagement programme and expansion of the University’s Combined Heat and Power Network.

  Scope 1 Scope 2 Scope 3
Description Direct emissions from activities owned or controlled by the University Indirect emissions from electricity consumed by the University that we do not own or control Other indirect emissions that occur upstream and downstream, associated with the University’s activities
Included in target
  • University controlled energy (gas used for the CHP and gas boilers)
  • University vehicles and the fuel they use
  • Electricity (excluding University owned electricity generation)
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Business travel
Measured but not used in target setting    
  • Staff/student commuting
  • Procurement (particularly capital goods and ICT)

Sustainable Campus Fund

To support the delivery of the University’s Climate Change Strategy, the Sustainable Campus Fund was established as an internal investment vehicle that provides funding to implement energy efficiency, renewable energy and other sustainability projects that generate carbon and cost savings.

The Fund was established in 2016 for three years, with funding of £2.75 million. The University’s Estates Committee approved an extension of the Fund to 5 years and increased it to £4.75M in total in May 2018.

In 2017/18, the Fund supported a range of projects, including lighting replacement projects; purchase of new efficient scientific equipment, including chillers, spectral lamps, drying overs and ultra-low temperature freezers. The Fund has also supported the delivery of the University first PC Reuse Project. The University’s Firbush Outdoor Centre has received funding to install a combination of heat pump sourcing heating and solar photovoltaic panels, providing sustainable heat and electricity. A total of 52 projects had been supported by the end of 2017/18.

In the coming year, the Fund will support several major ventilation projects, further lighting replacement projects and the purchase of more energy efficient scientific equipment. Research will be undertaken to identify how University buildings can be more responsive to building user needs, whilst achieving energy efficiencies. Case studies of successful projects will be developed and published to promote lessons learned and encourage further applications from staff and students.

Sustainable Campus Fund

Related links

Sustainable Development Goals Index