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) and Climate Change (Scotland) Act (2009).

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.

Many UK universities are addressing how they indirectly emit in their value chain, through actions such as flying for research or conferences, Following consultation with the Flying Less Group, we have included a question on reduction of scope 3 emissions from aviation from business travel. To learn more about Flying Less see here, or follow them on Twitter.

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.

2a. 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

2b Does the institution have a sustainable travel policy that seeks to reduce emissions from staff travel?

Score 5%

The policy must:

  • Require staff to consider whether the activity could be successfully carried out online, without travelling.

  • Require staff to follow a travel hierarchy when making booking decisions, encouraging staff to prioritise low-carbon options and to avoid high-carbon travel modes, such as aviation.

  • Prohibit all flights between mainland UK destinations, except where this will discriminate against people with disabilities or caring responsibilities or as part of a connection to an overseas destination.

  • Be in-date and signed off by a member of senior management in the last 5 years, or be referenced as part of a wider policy or strategy that has senior management sign-off.


  • People & Planet will look for specific requirements when making travel booking decisions that consider carbon emissions. Generic statements such as 'promote sustainable travel' will not be accepted.

  • Some examples of acceptable policies can be found at the University of Edinburgh and University of Manchester

People & Planet is open to places where this policy may be found, but will look for references to this policy in a dedicated university webpage, travel policy, sustainability strategy or carbon management plan.

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.

  • Externally provided accommodation is considered to be accommodation facilities where universities 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. It does not include private rental properties.

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

NB: 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.?

Score 60%

  • 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.

  • We are aware some universities will have already very high rates of commuting via foot and bicycle due to the size and layout of the place where they are situated. For this reason we will allow universities to have baselines and targets that are the same for commuting, provided a travel survey has been completed in the last 3 years.

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