Climate Commission for UK University and College Students & Leaders

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

Click here for the Virtual Evidence Gathering Events

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.

Updates - March 2020

The Climate Commissioners have been consulting with the Council on a draft statement on offsetting for the sector. The Climate Commission will develop additional guidance for institutions on offsetting taking on the comments from the Council. This will be shared with the Council in due course.
Using the statement, the Climate Commission partner organisations (AoC, EAUC, GuildHE & UUK) will now continue this dialogue and consensus building with their memberships.

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”.    

Updates - February 2020

The Climate Commissioners had a planning meeting on 11th February. Along with the Institutional Commissioners we welcomed the Student Commissioners to the group. Each partner organisation as a Student Commissioner as well as an Institutional Commissioner. This is to ensure that the student voice is at the heart of the Climate Commission. Our Student Commissioners are: 

  • Amy Brazier & Joshua Setford, Students, Portsmouth College, AoC representatives
  • Manveer Gill, Undergraduate, University of Warwick & EAUC representative
  • Florence Barrett, Undergraduate, Plymouth Marjon University, GuildHE representative
  • Marta Crispo, PhD Researcher, Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Sheffield, UUK representative  

Manveer says, “The Climate Commission has the potential to spark a collaborative sector-wide response to the climate emergency. By including students at every step, the Commission can create a strategy that unites all major stakeholders in our efforts to mitigate climate change.” 
The Commissioners discussed the 5 priorities in further detail in preparation for the virtual evidence gathering events. As a reminder please book onto the events here.
Climate Commission Activities

  • Climate Commissioners Judith Petts and Manveer Gill attended the recent launch of the UN Climate Change Summit (COP26) that the UK are hosting in Glasgow in November.
  • Iain Patton and Chris Hale, Climate Commission Steering Group, presented to Universities UK staff to ensure they are all familiar with the work of the Climate Commission
  • EAUC Trustee, Eunice Simmons, was a keynote speaker at Advance HE conference and highlighted the work of the Climate Commission
  • Climate Commissioner, Joy Carter, is speaking at the Higher Education Sustainability Forum on 24th March.
  • EAUC Trustee and Climate Commissioner, Jim Longhurst was a keynote speaker at Advance HE’s STEM  conference in Manchester on 20th January 2020 and highlighted the work of the Climate Commission.

Updates - January 2020

  • Student Commissioners have been appointed to work alongside the institutional Commissioners. This reflects equality within the Climate Commission and the determination to listen to students and ensure we have clear and cohesive actions. 
  • We are delighted to announce more institutions have now joined the Climate Commission Council – we have 85 in total with 61 institutional leaders and 24 students making up the Council.
  • We have provided free Carbon Literacy training to students from the Council. They are now empowered and equipped to influence their fellow students as well as senior management within their institution.
  • We have agreed the vision and mission as well as a Target Statement for the Climate Commission so we have a clear way ahead.
  • We have listed the top priorities for the Climate Commission.
  • We will have 5 virtual evidence gathering events over the coming 6 months for the sector to input into. Please book your place now.
  • Progress continues on our Scope 3 work and you can find out more about this here.
  • We will soon be launching:

- a sector wide programme for Carbon Literacy training.
- a travel tool to assist with conscious travel decisions. 

Next Steps - Evidence Gathering Events

The Climate Commission will hold virtual evidence gathering events over the next 6 months focusing on each of the priorities and will invite relevant Expert Witnesses and Observers for each particular focus area. The Climate Commission Council are invited to attend all events and we will be seeking wider views and engagement from the sector for which further details will be sent out in due course.

Purpose of the Meetings
These are initial evidence gathering meetings where we have invited some key stakeholders relating to each priority topic. We will be asking the expert witnesses to respond to the key questions as outlined in the briefing documents. We will then open the discussion to the wider audience for input. The aim is to provide guidance to the Climate Commission that we are asking the right questions and focusing on the correct areas that are needed. The recording and notes from each meeting will be publicly available.
This is the early stages for the Climate Commission and output, advice and support for the sector will emerge at a later stage based on the analysis of the evidence from this meeting and other inputs. Following these events further meetings and discussions will be held to help the Climate Commission develop the practical guidance and outputs for the sector for each priority. 
The Climate Commission Evidence Gathering Events are:

  • Friday 6th March 1300-1430: Priority 1 - Mobilising the Further and Higher Education voice for influence and impact – Watch here
  • Tuesday 24th March 1300-1430: Priority 2 – Research and Innovation – Watch here - Briefing Paper
  • Wednesday 29th April 1300-1430: Priority 3 – Measuring and Reporting - Scope 1, 2 & 3 – Book here
  • Tuesday 19th May 1000-1130: Priority 4 – Deep Adaptation – Book here
  • Tuesday 2nd June 1500-1630: Priority 5 – Education and Student Experience – Book here 

The Commissioners and Steering Group will provide updates following each of the key meetings identified above. 

Climate Commission Vision 

Across the Further and Higher Education sectors, to address the climate crisis, the Climate Commission will:

  • Challenge, unite and enable action
  • Demonstrate leadership and provide a strong and authoritative voice 

Climate Commission Mission

To achieve rapid and positive change that enables universities and colleges to contribute fully to tackling the climate crisis, recognising the different approaches which may be taken and in the context of delivering the Sustainable Development Goals.
Empowering higher and further education to have a strong voice nationally and internationally in addressing the climate crisis. 

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). 

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:

  1. Mobilising the Further and Higher Education voice for influence and impact
  2. Research and innovation– the funding and scope of research and innovation and maximising its impact
  3. 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
  4. Deep adaptation – including governance, risk, mitigation and adaptation for the future of our campuses and operations
  5. Education and the student experience – curriculum development and the climate emergency

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.

Student Voice Partners

We are working with our Student Voice Partners and Students Unions to ensure student representation is central to the Council. We also encourage the institutional members of the Council to engage with their students. Our Student Voice Partners are:  

Aims of the Climate Commission

The short term Climate Commission will develop an Action Plan in response to the government’s stated climate emergency and draw together a strategic sector-wide approach to the Climate Framework. 
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.
Sector professional bodies and other bodies form as Expert Witnesses for the Commission to call upon to feed into their 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.


Institutional Leaders

  • Steve Frampton, AoC President & AoC representative
  • Professor James Longhurst, Assistant Vice Chancellor, University of the West of England & EAUC Trustee
  • Professor Joy Carter CBE DL, Vice Chancellor, University of Winchester & GuildHE representative
  • Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice Chancellor, University of Plymouth & UUK representative

Student Leaders

  • Amy Brazier & Joshua Setford, Students, Portsmouth College, AoC representatives
  • Manveer Gill, Undergraduate, University of Warwick & EAUC representative
  • Florence Barrett, Undergraduate, Plymouth Marjon University, GuildHE representative
  • Marta Crispo, PhD Researcher, Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Sheffield, UUK representative 

Steering Group

The Steering Group is made up of executive staff from the Commission partner organisation:

  • Ian Munro, Director, Association of Colleges
  • Iain Patton, CEO & Fiona Goodwin, Director of Operations & Planning, EAUC
  • Alex Bols, Deputy Chief Executive, GuildHE
  • Christopher Hale, Director of Policy, Universities UK

Climate Commission Launch Event

The Climate Commission was launched at Ravensbourne University London on 13th November 2019. With students, sector institutions and associated sector body leaders attending, this was an opportunity to establish and demonstrate a commitment to sector emissions reduction and the climate emergency. Chair of the Government’s Committee on Climate Change, The Rt Hon. the Lord Deben (John Gummer), spoke at the launch. Our Keynote Speakers were Lizzy Houghton, Students' Union Activities and Development Officer, University of Manchester and Amy, Student, Portsmouth College.

“The Climate Commission has the ability to bring the full force of the UK’s expansive and powerful tertiary education sector to bear on climate change, with students and staff working together to lead the charge. I look forward to seeing the results presented at COP26 in Glasgow.”
Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change

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.

Delivered by EAUC