Managing Carbon

A steep and annual reduction in global carbon emissions is required to avert catastrophic climate change. Countries like the UK, with a historic 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.

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.

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 scope 1,2 and 3 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.

Carbon Management Plan

1. Does the University have a publicly available carbon management plan which includes...

Score 25%

5% for each condition below met:

  • a) A carbon emissions baseline for 2005 or later which covers all scope 1 and 2 emissions.

  • b) A carbon reduction target for covering scope 1 & 2, consistent with an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 at a minimum AND at least one milestone towards this target before 2030

  • c) Includes a budget for the carbon reduction plan.

  • d) Named persons or titles responsible for the carbon reduction plan.

  • e) A reporting mechanism for monitoring the carbon management plan.


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


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 led to the voluntary collection of scope 3 emissions through the Estates Management Record.


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

Score 5%

In this question, 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.

  •  3 % is still awarded if in-house accommodation is included in carbon emissions calculations, but externally provided accommodation is not.

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.