Sustainability

The Climate and Ecological Emergency

overhead shot of fire through forest

The need for urgent action

On 9 December 2020, the University of Essex joined many organisations around the world in declaring a climate and ecological emergency. 

Our declaration recognises the impact we have on the local, national and global environment and the need:

  • to understand better how to reduce our environmental impact, support biodiversity and achieve net zero emissions
  • to listen to voices from across our community, so as to arrive at a plan that has widespread support

Over the coming months, we will be looking again at everything we do, in the context of the climate and ecological emergency.

Make your voice heard

What can we, as university community, do to tackle the climate and ecological emergency?

We want to hear your thoughts. You can complete our Moodle survey or, if you prefer, email sustainability@essex.ac.uk

Nothing is off-limits and we welcome your thoughts.

Our declaration

"As a University community, we acknowledge the considerable impact that our activities have on the local, national and global environment, and that we have a responsibility to act decisively."
- Our declaration of a climate and ecological emergency

Our commitments

  • Working together as a University community to take actions to achieve net zero carbon emissions.
  • Carrying out an appraisal of the detailed actions that are needed to achieve net zero carbon emissions.
  • Setting a firm date by which we will achieve net zero carbon emissions, with an accompanying implementation action plan.
  • Creating the University’s most ambitious Sustainability Sub-Strategy to date and putting in place an action plan setting out how we will achieve our objectives.

Next steps

  • Gather the views and contributions of all members of our community.
  • Undertake a review of the actions required for the University to achieve net zero carbon emissions.
  • Develop the key areas, themes and actions of our next Sustainability Sub-Strategy.
solar panels on the roof of the Albert Sloman Library, Colchester Campus
"Protecting the environment and caring about our future and the next generation's future is everybody's responsibility, simply because we live here on Earth."
Mario Garcia Ugarte Third year student, Politics and International Relations

Why is the University acting now?

In recent years, we have made real progress on sustainability. It has become clear, though, that more decisive action is required. The need to agree a new Sustainability Sub-Strategy (SSS), which will guide the University's approach for years to come, provides the opportunity to deliver a step change in our approach. The consultation that will follow our declaration of a climate emergency is timed so that all sections of our university community can contribute to the formulation of the SSS.

wind turbines in field
“We felt passionately that we should only make this declaration when we had something to back it up. We have clear next steps on our journey to reduce our environmental impact and to reach net zero carbon emissions. I would urge everyone to get involved and share their thoughts.”
Rob Davey Head of Sustainability and Grounds

Why have we not set a date for achieving net zero carbon emissions yet?

Setting a target date for achieving net zero is a serious commitment. We are undertaking work to better understand how our emissions are produced, what measures need to be taken to reduce them and the resources required. This will allow us to determine when we aim to reach net zero. To achieve our goals will require significant behavioural change from us all, so it is vital that everyone’s voices are heard, to deliver an action plan that is both ambitious and achievable.

Tree at Wivenhoe Park lake
“The climate is in crisis. As an institution, we have a significant impact on the environment and we need to be taking steps to make a difference. I hope all sections of our community will join this conversation and share their expertise.”
Daisy Malt Sustainability (Environment and Recycling) Manager

A clear case for action

There is clear scientific evidence that anthropogenic climate change is now a reality. The global temperature has already increased by +1oC since pre-industrial levels, when carbon in the atmosphere was at 280 ppm (parts per million). Today, carbon concentrations are 413 ppm, and rising at approximately +2ppm per year. It is widely accepted that a safe operating space for humanity is 350 ppm (the levels passed in 1990). International policies (particularly the 2016 Paris Agreement) are seeking to limit increases in global temperature by a further +0.5 to +1.0oC.

It is vital that the University plays a leading role in delivering net zero emissions. This is not a threat, but an opportunity to deliver excellence in education and research in novel and effective ways.

wild flowers in a field
The Climate Emergency Group

The Climate Emergency Group was formed in 2020 and tasked with deciding whether to declare a climate emergency and how to respond to it. The Group’s membership is drawn from all sectors of our community. Following the declaration of a climate emergency, the Climate Emergency Group will lead on developing, seeking approval for, and then ensuring delivery of, the University’s most ambitious Sustainability Sub-Strategy (SSS) to date.

Meet the group

Header image - Climate Emergency: Forest Fires in Siberia, photograph © Julia Petrenko / Greenpeace.