EAUC-led Science-Based Target Guidance and Verification Framework for Universities and Colleges

About Science-Based Targets

The Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) is a joint initiative by Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF, intended to increase corporate ambition on climate action by mobilising companies to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets consistent with the level of decarbonisation required by science to limit warming to less than 1.5ºC / 2°C compared to preindustrial temperatures.

The initiative, launched in 2015, defines and promotes best practice in science-based target setting, offers resources and guidance to reduce barriers to adoption, and independently assesses and approves companies’ targets.

SBTi is developing sector-specific methods and is currently working on developing a framework and guidance for the financial sector, concentrating notably on scope 3 emissions. Given its scale of emissions, SBTi is focussing on the needs of the commercial and industrial sectors. While being supportive of the development of SBT guidance and verification for the world’s universities and colleges, SBTi does not have the capacity to create it.

Science-Based Targets in Universities and Colleges

A number of universities in the UK have pioneered the use of science-based targets as a mechanism to track and report their progress in reducing emissions. Universities have come at the application of the methodology in a number of different ways as they have attempted to align with sectoral approaches designed for other sectors and not higher and further education. At the most practical level Higher/Further Educations Institutions are not applying the SBT methodology consistently and they do not have a framework against which to reference standards, best practice, reporting and in fact do not have a route to verification. None of the approved sectors map effectively to universities However there are perceived benefits over other approaches. These include:
  • SBTi trajectories are uniquely based on IPCC and IEA pathways.
  • SBT documentation is in the public domain, so is accessible to all
  • There is a risk using other approaches to GHG emission and decarbonisation targets may not be equally ambitious
  • An increasing recognised brand by institution leaders and other sector stakeholders
Recent analysis of responses from a sample group of international universities that work with the EAUC demonstrated an appetite for an SBT framework for Universities and Colleges that could be consistently applied across the global university/college sector. See Annex 1 for the responses. Some regions have an approach, but we believe that a consistent global approach is what is needed to be confident in consistency and impact.

Members of EAUC and our wider network are keen to support the development of a verified sectoral approach for the University and College sector. This will bring a number of benefits, economies of scale, consistent application of data collection and reporting standards, consistent approaches to the publication externally of progress in delivering progress as a sector, provision of consistent advisory support.

EAUC has made a number of approaches to SBTi to ask for the university/college sector to be given the same status as other sectors that report into SBT. However, the sector is seen as a low priority compared to the priorities to address high emission sectors globally and do not have the capacity to develop a sector framework. Following discussions with WWF, EAUC is being encouraged to develop a framework for the higher and further education sector. 

A Way Forward

We now seek to develop SBT Framework Guidance that relates specifically to universities and colleges. We aim for this to align fully with SBTi methodology.  Phase 1 will be to develop an approach which works for the institutions which have already expressed an interest in setting a target.  This phase will therefore primarily focus on the needs of UK and Irish institutions, but institutions from other countries are welcome to join on that understanding.  EAUC in its approach is open and partnership-based and will work to ensure that what is produced is not exclusive to any continent or region of the world, on the contrary, it would want any new framework to be sufficiently open in design approach and concept to be applicable to institutions globally, and to take account of the many differences in the types of institution. This approach will encourage new entrants and accelerate the rate of decarbonisation of the sector.

The research carried out by the EAUC (see Annex 1) indicated that institutions are willing to work as a collective to help develop a new framework and to establish for example a peer reviewed mechanism for verification of submissions. Standards are very important and universities/colleges are well placed to provide leadership in this area of work.

In order to deliver this work EAUC will establish two groups, an Advisory Group and a Delivery Group.

The Advisory Group

It comprises sector expertise in establishing an institutional SBT.  At project start this group will meet to input insight, experience and recommendations on the upcoming sector SBT Framework. This input will be presented to the Delivery Group as a foundation for Framework development.  The Advisory Group will be a resource and offer support to the Delivery Group as necessary.

Advisory Group invitees currently include SBT early adopters (as of August 21):

University of Cambridge, UK
University of Surrey, UK
University of Nottingham, UK
UWE Bristol, UK

The Delivery Group

It will mostly comprise representatives of institutions committed to establishing an institutional SBT through the development of the Framework Guidance for FHE. The project is funded through Delivery Group institutional contributions.

EAUC will provide the Secretariat for the Delivery Group. This comprises:

Prof John French, EAUC Deputy Chair - Chair
Fiona Goodwin, Director of Operations & Planning, EAUC - Secretary
Iain Patton, CEO, EAUC - Programme Lead

The Secretariat will manage the day to day running and delivery of the project including the procurement of an appropriate consultant and liaise with national and international stakeholders to ensure project output is acceptable to key stakeholders. A project budget draft is being developed and will be completed when project deliverables are confirmed.

The Delivery Group is chaired by the EAUC Deputy Chair, John French, to ensure all decisions are in line with EAUC principles and governance. The Chair will liaise with key international interested parties e.g. WWF International, SBTN, ACTS (Australasia) and Second Nature (USA) for project oversight and ensure that alignment with SBTi is maintained and project output is recognised by SBTi.

The Delivery Groups tasks include:

i. Agree project and Delivery Group terms of reference, scope, objectives, outputs, timescale and funding mechanism.
ii. Work with the appointed consultant on the delivery of the framework
iii. Consult with the Advisory Group and others as necessary
iv. Draft, pilot, refine and publish SBT Guidance Framework for universities and colleges.
v. Establish or make recommendations towards a sector SBT verification mechanism – To be decided.

The Delivery Group will consist of approximately 10 members. Secretariat is provided by the EAUC.  Expert consultancy will be procured and other relevant expertise sought as needed. 

Delivery Group members are to serve for the duration of the project.  At this stage we anticipate this will be up in the region of 7 months. The EAUC has the right to terminate any Delivery Group member if they no longer support the spirit of the Group.

The Delivery Group will meet approximately 8 times, virtually. Members of the Delivery Group contribute on a voluntary basis and time shall not be remunerated. The EAUC shall reimburse any travel and material expenses incurred by the Delivery Group members that are related solely to the work of the Delivery Group. As meetings are held virtually this is not expected and any expenses are to be pre-approved by EAUC.

Other Delivery Group members to be invited from those who have expressed an interest to date (Aug 21):

Glasgow Caledonian University, UK
University of Tasmania, Australia
University of New South Wales, Australia
Institute of Cancer Research, UK
University of Porto, Portugal
University of Ulster, UK
University of Aberdeen, UK
University of Bath, UK
Keele University, UK
Northumbria University, UK
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
University of Chester, UK
Buckinghamshire New University, UK
Newcastle University, UK
Kings College London, UK
Malmo Universitet, Sweden
University of Salford, UK
University of Warwick, UK
University of California – Davis, USA
University College Cork, Ireland
University of Reading, UK
Cardiff University, UK
Queen’s University Belfast, UK
University College Cork, Ireland 
University of London, UK  
Nottingham Trent University, UK
Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium 
University of Pennsylvania, USA
University of St Andrews, UK
University of Ulster, UK 
University of Aberdeen, UK
University of the West of England, UK
Fiji National University, Fiji

Delivered by EAUC