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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 signed the Paris Agreement in 20016. It aims to limit warming to1.5°C - more ambitious than both the UK 2050 target and previous international agreements.

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.

Based on the rationale underpinning the current 2050 target the UK would need to reach net zero emissions no later than the rest of the world (2100). Furthermore, pathways that return to 1.5°C would imply a UK reduction of at least 86-96% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The most recent progress report by the Committee on Climate Change warned that the UK is not currently on track to meet its current statutory carbon targets for the late 2020s and early 2030s.

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 taking a holistic approach to carbon management will include 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 direct and associated carbon emissions.

Here is some guidance for how universities can measure, baseline and reduce these (Scope 3) emissions (transport,waste and water).

Note: The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) closed at the end of March 2018. Information from the original Hefce website (including much of the information we have signposted here) is now hosted on the national web archives website and is no longer maintained. Some of Hefce's former provisions are now implemented through the Office For Students and it seems many others have been cut or lost.

Carbon Management Plan

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.

While we see no government plan to supersede the requirements laid out by Hefce to meet the university portion of the public sector carbon reduction targets, our criteria still reflects the current government plan for reducing carbon emissions across the Higher Education 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 (2010/11 updates)are 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 and scope 3 emissions

Notes on 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.


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

Score 5%

In this criterion, People & Planet are rewarding the university for;

  • transparency

  • for calculating scope 3 emissions

  • for attributing to scope 3 emissions to university activities

Regardless of whether the university has chosen to include scope 3 within the carbon emission baseline and target or not, if the university scope 3 emissions have been made public, the university will be able to score.


2b. Are scope 3 emissions reported to HESA through the EMR?

Score 5%

People & Planet will use the HESA EMR data to score this criterion.

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

Scores will be awarded to universities that report on scope 3 emissions arising from:

  • water supply
  • waste water treatment
  • waste

as a minimum, with at least one other area of scope 3 emissions being reported to HESA – [emissions arising from staff commute, student commute, and the procurement supply chain].


Guidance from HESA


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

Score 5%

  • People & Planet will look for evidence within the Carbon Management Plan or within the relevant pages on the university website showing the percentage of total carbon emissions attributed to residential accommodation for staff and students covering scopes 1 and 2.
  • People & Planet will cross reference this against student numbers and related accommodation provisions and facilities.

Note: People & Planet appreciate that some universities do not have residential accommodation (i.e. the residences are not owned, managed in-house or counted within their estate space, and therefore not on their books); however, students (and sometimes staff) must live somewhere. Universities that are considering their holistic carbon responsibilities will be measuring related carbon emissions from accommodation facilities where they have relationship agreements, outsource contracts or a student community living provisions of accommodation that are purpose built and run for students that may accommodate students from several universities.

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 or in documents that are out of date.