How the University is responding to the global climate emergency

Next week, the University is joining news outlets and other institutions around the world to take part in Covering Climate Now, a week dedicated to covering the climate story. All week you’ll see more stories than usual showing how our research is tackling the climate crisis.

Professor Gill Valentine

Universities are uniquely placed to respond to the global challenges we face. We educate the next generation, ensuring that those who will be most affected by the climate crisis have the skills needed to find solutions. We train not only scientists, engineers and leaders in how to tackle climate change, but also to ensure our wider student body understands how to apply their subject knowledge to make society more sustainable.

Our research brings together academic expertise across a range of disciplines to help to find solutions to the greatest challenges facing humanity. Our new research institutes have been established to look at these challenges. Hundreds of academics and students are at work on a huge array of projects - from the intensely scientific to the intimately behavioural - around resources, pollution, recycling and re-use.

We have broken barriers between disciplines to consider problems which impinge on every aspect of our lives. These new institutes bring together chemists and engineers, social scientists and even musicians, recognising the all-consuming impact of human behaviour. From soil to plastics and from energy to air, the University of Sheffield aims to do what it can to ensure we not only survive, but thrive, in the years ahead.

Universities are also large, complex organisations and should lead by example to have a positive impact in their own local and regional environments. At Sheffield, we are committed to not only finding solutions to global problems, but to translating our research into real-world solutions that make our campus and city more sustainable.

Following the publication of our first Year 1 sustainability strategy last year, we have been developing and consulting on a Five Year strategy and action plan, to be launched in autumn. This will again be structured around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and will contain a range of actions and targets looking at every area of the University’s activities. Through this plan, we want to be one of the most sustainable research universities in the country.

As with our earlier strategy, students have been central to the process of developing our new action plan. We have been working closely with student representatives and our academic experts to ensure we are approaching challenges from a solid evidence base and that student priorities are represented.

Lots of great work has already been done. The University has already cut its emissions by over 30 per cent since records began in 2005, and we are on track to meet our 43 per cent reduction target by 2020. Earlier this year, we completed our divestment from fossil fuel companies, meaning we no longer hold any shares in any companies engaged in fossil fuel extraction or processing. The University’s fleet is now over 30 per cent electric and we will be continuing to introduce electric vehicles as new models become available. We are continuing to invest in our campus to ensure that walking and cycling are the most attractive options when travelling to and around the University.

But we know there is lots more to do, particularly on emissions. We will be setting out in our new sustainability strategy later this year an action plan for becoming carbon neutral. We know this is imperative, but we are committed to taking a science-led approach and ensuring we can follow through on any promises we make.

We don’t currently have all the answers. The challenges we face are multifaceted and embedded in complex economic and societal systems. While this means our decisions will sometimes require trade-offs and compromises, we must never lose sight of the urgency needed to cut emissions, restore our habitats and secure our planet for the future.

Best wishes,

Professor Gill Valentine

Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor

Climate Action - 20 September

On Friday 20 September a global day of action is planned in response to the climate emergency. Young people in schools across the world will be participating in a global climate strike, and are inviting adults to join them.

Our trade unions have told us that they will be holding a rally on the concourse on the day at 12.00 in support of this action. We know how important this issue is to our students and staff and we are therefore supporting staff to take part in the 30 minute rally.

How do I participate?

All staff are free to participate if they can. We invite you to stop work to attend the rally at 12.00 for 30 minutes on 20 September as a symbolic stoppage in support of the global climate strike.

What can I use the time for?

The stoppage is an expression of solidarity with young people protesting climate change. You can either join the rally on the Concourse, or use the time to undertake your own climate action, such as finding out more about your department’s Green Impact team.

What if I am busy on essential University business?

We understand you may not be able to take part due to other commitments. We trust you to make the right decision in relation to your working arrangements.

Do I have to participate?

No. It is a personal choice whether to participate in the climate stoppage. But if you choose to do so then you have the support of the University.

What if I want to participate in other action on the 20 September?

The University is supporting staff to participate in the trades union rally on the Concourse. We are aware of additional rallies taking place in the city centre. Managers may use their discretion to enable staff to participate in these actions. We trust our staff and managers to ensure essential work and services are maintained.

Could I take time on a different day?

A significant purpose of the event is to show global solidarity by all participating on the same day. The stoppage is planned for 20 September. Therefore, if you want to take part it must be on that day.