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5. Carbon Management

A steep and annual reduction in global carbon emissions is required to avert catastrophic climate change. Countries like the UK - with a historical responsibility for creating the majority of emissions have a responsibility to meet targets to reduce carbon emissions at every level.

The UK public sector are expected to contribute to the 80% carbon reductions by 2050 enshrined within the Climate Change Act (2008). Within the Climate Change (Scotland) Act (2009), Scotland has set more ambitious medium-term targets of a 42% reduction by 2020.

Carbon management is central to the future of environmental management in universities, as recognised within the Hefce, Universities UK and GuildHE publication, Carbon Reduction Strategy (2010) - which set a sector-wide carbon reduction target. Although this strategy applies only to English institutions, similar requirements are in place for institutions in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales through devolved government and funding council targets.

Short-term targets are crucial to reducing the impact of cumulative emissions and tracking continual reduction to long-term targets.

Institutions should take a holistic approach to carbon management by including the full scope of their emissions in the reduction targets they set themselves. Transport, waste and procurement activities are shown to account for up to 50% of an institution’s carbon footprint. Guidance for how universities can measure, baseline and reduce these (Scope 3) emissions was published in January 2012 (transport,waste and water).

Carbon Management Plan and targets

1. Does the University have a publicly available carbon management plan which meets the Carbon Trust and most current Capital Investment Framework (CIF2) requirements?

Score 25%

Developed in consultation with The Carbon Trust: The Carbon Trust and Hefce’s Capital Investment Framework 2 set out a series of requirements for effective HE carbon management plans. People & Planet uses the same requirements to assess whether an institution’s CMP meet this criterion. Tim Pryce, Public Sector Manager, Carbon Trust


This criteria is still the current Hefce plan for reducing carbon emissions across the sector.

People & Planet will look for the universities Carbon Management Plan on the university website. The plan should be in date, signed off by the universities governing body and contain:

  • a carbon baseline for 2005 which covers all scope 1 and 2 emissions with an aspirational carbon reduction target for 2020 set against this baseline. (Non English institutions are not covered by CIF2 and can therefore set a baseline and a target for dates other than 2005 and 2020 if they wish.)

  • Set a SMART carbon reduction target that is a realistic milestone towards the 2020 target, covering scope 1 & 2 as minimum.

  • Include an implementation plan to achieve the SMART carbon emission reduction target including estimated carbon savings, time scales and resources. These should cover capital projects and actions to embed carbon management within the institution, for example, through corporate strategy, communication and training.

  • State the estimated investment needed to achieve the SMART target, and the energy and maintenance cost savings that result.

  • Clear lines of responsibility for carbon management.

  • A commitment to monitor progress towards targets regularly and to report publicly on progress each year.

 Requirements of the Capital Investment Framework 2 were to demonstrate absolute or relative reductions in carbon emissions since 1990 or 2005.

Carbon requirements under any future Capital Investment Framework are expected to be more demanding, probably requiring absolute reductions in scope 1 and 2 emissions. 

2. Carbon Management

2a. Are scope 3 emissions included within the university carbon management plan?

People & Planet are rewarding the university for transparency and for calculating scope 3 emissions and attributing them to university activities. Regardless of whether the university has chosen to include scope 3 within the baseline and target or not, if the university scope 3 emissions have been made public, the university will score.

Score 5%

2b. Scope 3 emissions are reported to HESA through the EMR

Score 5%

People & Planet will use the EMR data set for 2015/16

  • All universities report their scope 3 emissions arising from their water supply and waste water treatment, to HESA and two thirds of UK universities report their scope 3 emissions arising from waste, to HESA.

  • In 2017, marks will be awarded to universities that report on scope 3 emissions arising from water supply, waste water treatment and waste as a minimum, with at least one other area of scope 3 emissions being reported to HESA – including emissions arising from staff commute, student commute, and the procurement supply chain.

    Guidance from HESA can be found here: https://www.hesa.ac.uk/collection/c14042/notification_of_changes/


2c. Does the university calculate total carbon emissions attributed to residential accommodation (both in-house and externally provided accommodation).

People & Planet will look for a statement on the website showing the percentage of university total carbon emissions attributed to residential accommodation for staff and students.

Scope 1, 2 and 3

Score 5%

Scope 3 emissions

Following the 2008 Climate Change Act, the UK government bodies and Higher Education Funding Councils developed strategies for reducing carbon emissions in higher education. These include a commitment to consistency in the reporting of Scope 3 data, which lead to the voluntary collection of scope 3 emissions through the Estates Management Record. For consistency across the sector, HEFCE have provided guidance on measuring scope 3 carbon emissions. Further details of policies on reducing carbon emissions by country can be found below.

England (latest update 2010) - Carbon reduction target and strategy for higher education in England.

Wales (latest update 2014) - Carbon Management Policy.

Scotland (latest update 2012/13) - Public Sector Sustainability Reporting Guidance.

Northern Ireland - Carbon Reduction. (no update found)

3. Does the carbon management plan include a baseline and reduction targets for scope 3 emissions calculated in the following areas:

Maximum of 60% available

  • Waste (including construction)
  • Water
  • Procurement (supply chain)
  • Staff and student business trips e.g. flights to conferences and field trips
  • Staff and students commuting to university on a daily basis
  • Carbon emissions associated with the travel between students’ homes and the university at the start and end of term (including international students’ travel to and from their home country)


  • In each of the 6 areas, 5% will be awarded for the baseline and 5% awarded for the target
  • A baseline and targets need to be included in the publicly available Carbon Management Plan document.
  • The university cannot score if targets/baseline appear in draft documents not yet signed off at senior level.