Presenting the Environment & Climate Emergency White paper

Professor Juliet Osborne on how the University plans to combat the climate crisis

Professor Juliet Osborne, Director of the Environment and Sustainability Institute, presented the Environment and Climate Emergency White Paper to a packed lecture theatre on the Penryn Campus.

The paper is the result of the University of Exeter’s declaration of a climate emergency in May earlier this year. Following this, the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group commissioned a working group, made up of academic staff, professional services and students, to create a set of recommendations on how the University could tackle the climate crisis.

Students, staff and locals alike gathered to hear these plans, ones which Professor Osborne described as being designed “to look at what we’re already doing on campus and how we can do things much better to make a transformative change.”

One of the key strategies that Professor Osborne suggested is that anyone involved with the University should be making “cultural changes” to their lifestyle in order to help reduce carbon emissions. She said: “This is about everyone changing their behaviour; what they buy, what they eat, how much they travel and really thinking about that.”

 Procurement, the buying and use of goods and services, was highlighted as one of the biggest causes of carbon emissions by the University and could be a major focus going forward. From the University’s perspective, this could involve introducing initiatives such as removing all single-use, non-recyclable cups and food boxes, alongside reducing long-haul trips which use air travel.

 In terms of impact students can have, Professor Osborne made clear that they have a “big role to play.” She called on students to share their “ideas about how we can reduce energy use, and also how we can improve our recycling, for example; all of those ideas can be fed through [students].”

 One Exeter student, Ellen Monaghan, who studies Geography, was involved in drawing up the White Paper. Her contributions ensured that a student perspective was considered throughout the document.

“My aim was to ensure that student views on the climate crisis were represented in the working group, and to ensure that the University finally acted on the climate emergency declaration which students lobbied for,” said Ellen. 

 “Universities should be helping to build the culture we need to move towards, and teaching students how to help to build a decarbonised and socially-just world. The release of this paper is definitely a step in the right direction for the University of Exeter, to improve the future for its students as well as for everyone else.”

 Since its release, the Environment and Climate Emergency White Paper has already had an impact, with the University revealing that it has acted on a key recommendation in the report by committing to halt direct investments in fossil fuel companies. This change marks the first major step in working to reduce emissions since the Paper’s publication.

 “I am delighted that the University has acted quickly on a number of recommendations within the Environment and Climate Emergency Report,” added Professor Osborne.

 “We know there is a lot more to do and transformative, rapid action is essential with change required across every aspect of University business: including infrastructure, strategy and culture.

 “I want to thank students and staff for their support of the Working Group and urge everyone at the University to play their part so that we show leadership within our region, nation and across the globe.”

This article was written by Student Communications Ambassador Matt Solomons.

Watch Matt’s interview with Professor Osborne here

Date: 19 December 2019

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