Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education

Association of Colleges, EAUC, GuildHE and Universities UK have partnered to establish a Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education Students and Leaders.

Register here to attend "Climate Commission: One Year On" - a virtual event on 5th November with a Keynote Speech from The Rt. Hon. The Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change.

Click here for updates on the Commission's work
Click here for the Virtual Evidence Gathering Events
Click here for information on the Commission's aims, mission and vision
Click here for the Commission's Target Statement and priorities 
Who is involved in the Climate Commission?
Statement on the postponement of COP26
Click here to access the Climate Action Roadmap for FE Colleges 
Click here to read more about our HE Climate Action Toolkit

On 1st May 2019 MPs declared a climate and environment emergency which is being adopted by an ever-increasing number of universities, colleges and sector agencies and bodies. The UK government has legislated to achieve net zero emissions on all Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 under the 2008 Climate Change Act.

We have therefore launched a Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education to catalyse action to create real impact and drive change. Read more about the launch of the Climate Commission here.

Are you a student? Read more about student involvement in the Climate Commission on our Climate Commission Student Hub.

Are you in the Further Education sector? Or, are you interested in how the Further Education sector is involved in the Commission? Access our Further Education Hub here.

Are you in the Higher Education sector? Or, are you interested in how the Higher Education sector is involved in the Commission? Access our Higher Education Hub here. 

What is the Climate Commission?

The Climate Commission is a partnership of Association of Colleges, EAUC, GuildHE and Universities UK. Senior executive-level representatives from each organisation and student representatives make up the Commissioners. EAUC  provide a secretariat function. The Commission is UK wide. Commissioners provide direction and leadership to the Commission’s work, act as the visible face of the Commission and play a role in building engagement and consensus within the sectors involved. The Commissioners work with a wider Council that  advise and support their work.
The Council is made up of Students and Vice Chancellors or Principals from institutions that have agreed to be part of and contribute to the Commission. We seek to ensure this groups reflects sector diversity.

Aims of the Climate Commission

The Climate Commission's short term aim is to develop an Action Plan in response to the UK government’s stated climate emergency and draw together a strategic sector-wide approach to the Climate Framework. 

How will the Climate Commission do this?  

As well as being supported by the Council, the Commissioners will seek advice from Expert Witnesses, Sustainability Professionals and Observers to inform their activities. The partnership between the Commissioners and the Council will develop a sector-wide consensus for action. This will cover leadership and governance; estates and operations; learning and teaching; research, partnerships and engagement. The Climate Framework will guide and support all UK and Ireland universities and colleges to be net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.
The Commission will call upon Expert Witnesses to feed into their work, including during including during the Commission's virtual Evidence Gathering Events. Expert Witnesses are sector professional bodies and other bodies whose knowledge and expertise can enhance the Commission's work. 

The Commission also invites Observers to attend Commission meetings. These are sector funding agencies and relevant Government departments. It is important for the Commission to keep all stakeholders informed of activities.
A Think Tank of sector-wide sustainability professionals has been formed and will be a resource to address technical challenges identified by the Commission and to implement and scale Commission output.
The Commission will provide updates to all institutions through our partners – AoC, EAUC, GuildHE & UUK.

Climate Commission Target Statement

Further and higher educational institutions should aim for net-zero Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions for Scope 1 and 2 by 2030, as per IPCC recommendations, as a minimum.
There should be significant sector action towards reducing Scope 3 emissions within this timeframe. A first step should be to understand sector Scope 3 emissions and develop a framework that can be used as a basis for understanding the current baseline and establishing a meaningful target that is in line with the ambition set out above.
Scope 3 net-zero GHG emissions should be achieved no later than 2050 (or as per devolved Government targets). 

Offsetting Statement

The Climate Commission believes offsetting should be seen as a last resort for residual emissions where all other possible action has been taken using the principles of the Carbon Management Hierarchy of avoid, reduce, replace and offset. The Climate Commission foresee that offsetting will have a role as the sector moves towards net-zero emissions. The Climate Commission consider that offsetting may be higher in the early stages where institutions have ambitious targets but would expect these to scale down as measures are implemented and institutions move from net zero to zero emissions.    

Climate Commission Priorities

The Climate Commission has identified five areas that the sector needs focused support on to ensure there is a clear and feasible pathway to reach targets. Other related areas, such as Scope 1 and 2 emissions, are already well documented for the sector and it is felt that focus is not required. The top five priorities the Climate Commission will focus on and develop enablers for are:

  • Mobilising the Further and Higher Education voice for influence and impact
  • Research and innovation– the funding and scope of research and innovation and maximising its impact
  • Measuring and Reporting - Scope 1, 2 & 3 – profiling work underway, developing sector understanding of Scope 3 emissions, and supporting the sector to make significant progress in addressing these emissions
  • Deep adaptation – including governance, risk, mitigation and adaptation for the future of our campuses and operations
  • Education and the student experience – curriculum development and the climate emergency

Glasgow COP26

The UK has won the bid to host the 26th Conference of the Parties, known as COP26 with up to 30,000 delegates expected to attend the event at Glasgow's Scottish Events Campus (SEC) in November 2020. The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change, being the first major economy to pass laws to end the UK's contribution to global warming. Designed to produce an international response to the climate emergency, the Climate Commission will report their work to COP26 which is a huge opportunity to profile UK universities and colleges and showcase our global education and sustainability leadership.

Please note: COP26 has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Climate Commission has drafted a response to the postponement of COP26 due to COVID-19 pandemic, acknowledging the importance of reducing the severity of the outbreak and emphasising its continued commitment to tackling the climate crisis: 


“Rightly, as the world unites to save lives and fight COVID-19, the decision has been taken by the UN to reschedule COP26. Scheduled for Glasgow this November, it will now happen sometime in 2021.
While a setback for the work of the Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education Students and Leaders, our commitment and workplan remains unchanged as Climate Commission partners will continue working tirelessly across the sector to deliver the ambition, momentum and agreement needed to tackle the climate crisis which remains at the highest priority for universities and colleges and their 4.5 million students and 549,000 staff in this unprecedented year”

- Climate Commission Partners – Association of Colleges, EAUC, Guild HE & Universities UK

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