Message to staff and students from Professor Sir Steve Smith

Publication of the Environment and Climate Emergency Working Group Report and Recommendations


Dear University of Exeter Colleagues and Students,

Please see the Environment and Climate Emergency Working Group Report which the University senior leadership team commissioned earlier this year to set out our response to the Environment and Climate Emergency.

I firstly want to thank Professor Juliet Osborne as the Chair of the Working Group and the team of over 30 staff and students, including our leading environment and climate experts, who have worked on producing an exceptional report that is evidence-based and pragmatic in balancing the wide-range of views on this issue.

The environment and climate emergency is undoubtedly one of the critical issues of our time and a significant priority for the University of Exeter in terms of our research, education and global strategies. I want us to be sector leading in our approach and the Working Group recommendations give us an opportunity to achieve this.

The senior leadership team can immediately support a good proportion of the goals and recommendations within the report but there are also areas that will need further work, particularly where there are major financial or structural implications. We are supportive of the goals and targets as described but want to develop detailed and costed plans.

To achieve this, we support the first Working Group recommendation to establish an Environmental Emergency Board which will be chaired by Professor Janice Kay, Provost and Mike Shore-Nye, Registrar to ensure this work is given the highest priority. The Board will meet before the end of the year and agree a delivery plan from January 2020.   

In the meantime there are some immediate recommendations we can support such as:

  • Establish a ‘South West Climate Action Network’ to ensure a co-ordinated and integrated approach across the region. We will create a hub for our teams and partners to access people, research, data, tools and guidance so that we are united in tackling the environment and climate crisis.  
  • Bring forward investment in areas such as video-conferencing, solar panels and LED lighting to help meet the 2025 emissions goals.
  • Remove all single-use, non-recyclable cups and food boxes while ensuring new materials are effectively recycled or composted.  
  • Sign the Higher Education SDG Accord to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Launch an environment and climate emergency campaign to support individual, team and university-wide actions.

I am clear that to achieve all the goals and recommendations we need to engage our 28,000 strong community of students and staff to make the fundamental changes required.

Some of the recommendations will need further consultation such as our investments and relationships with companies or sectors that currently have a high environmental impact; how we balance our growth in international work and international students with the climate impact; and how we can support all our students and staff to have sustainability at the core of their education and careers.

In the coming days I urge you to read the report and provide your feedback and ideas to achieve the goals and recommendations. There are student and staff engagement sessions set out below and you can visit the sustainability website for more information or email:

We have recently appointed a new Head of Sustainability Dr. Emma Page, and the Sustainability Team will help gather the feedback and turn goals and recommendations into priorities and actions, but this cannot be the responsibility of just one team. We must all play our part as individuals, teams and colleges through actions in our offices, labs, buildings and working practices, and through learning opportunities. I fully acknowledge that the senior leadership team must lead by example.

Let’s unite behind the science and lead the charge in tackling the environment and climate crisis across our region and through our partnerships across the globe.   


Professor Sir Steve Smith


Staff and student engagement sessions

Presentations led by Professor Juliet Osborne, Chair of the Working Group:

  • Tuesday 12 November - 15.30 – 17.00 - Baring Court 112, St Luke’s Campus
  • Wednesday 13 November - 14.30 – 16.00 - Newman Red Lecture Theatre (F), Streatham Campus
  • Friday 15 November - 14:00 - 15.30pm - Daphne du Maurier Lecture B, Penryn Campus

Book your place now

Feedback opportunities at sustainability team drop-in sessions:

  • Tuesday 12 November 2019, 10:00 to 15:00, Streatham Campus Forum Street and North Piazza
  • Thursday 14 November 2019, 10:00 to 15:00, St Luke's Campus - outside X-Keys
  • Tuesday 19 November 2019, 18:30 to 20:00, Streatham Court B (student focused event on getting involved in sustainability projects)

Members of the Working Group and Sustainability Team are also happy to attend sizeable staff and student meetings or workshops on request.

Email: or visit the Environment and Climate Emergency website.