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University leads with bold emissions reduction target

The University of Tasmania has committed to reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 50 per cent by 2030, the latest of a series of actions it has taken to confront the climate emergency.

The University is announcing the ambitious emissions reduction target to coincide with UN World Environment Day 2022, which has the theme #onlyoneearth.

The University has been certified carbon neutral under the Commonwealth Climate Active program since 2016, has divested of fossil fuel investments, delivered carbon emission reductions in energy, transport and waste, and has reduced the embodied carbon in its construction of new buildings at Inveresk in Launceston by more than 32%.

The minimum 50% emission reduction target is greater than that set by the Paris Agreement, which requires a global net reduction in emissions of 45% by 2030 if warming is to be kept at or below 1.5C.

“Committing to our Emission Reduction Strategic Plan is a major milestone on a decade-long emissions reduction journey for us,” the Vice Chancellor, Professor Rufus Black, said.

“We have an enormous amount of research and teaching in climate change happening every day. The way we manage our organisation must honour that work.

“We will be making further changes to reduce our emissions at the institutional level and we will be supporting staff and students to enable them to make changes.”

The university’s greatest source of emissions is energy use, followed by travel for business and staff commuting.

To address these emissions, we will electrify our vehicle fleet, install more on-site renewable energy, eliminate natural gas use, implement circular economy and embodied carbon reduction principles for building construction, and reduce air travel.

The commitment to a minimum 50% reduction aligns with recognition earlier this year from the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings that the University of Tasmania is ranked Number 1 in the world for climate action. This is the premier global ranking measuring more than 1400 universities’ contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainability is deeply embedded in the university’s research and teaching programs and students have an integral role in sustainability initiatives at the University.  One example is the Sustainability Integration Program for Students (SIPS), in which students work on real-world sustainability projects such as auditing the energy output of buildings and designing sustainable infrastructure such as the Dobson Road Bike Hub that has solar panels and electric bike charging.

Since 2010, the program has involved thousands of students in real-world sustainability challenges and created opportunities for student leadership.

To date, 203 projects have involved over 2,553 students and 104 staff from 12 academic and professional areas and all Tasmanian and Sydney campuses.

In addition to internationally recognised climate research and teaching initiatives, numerous programs across the university have contributed to climate action recognition:

  • being certified carbon neutral since 2016, including annual public reporting
  • positive provisioning through public and active transport infrastructure and service improvements to support sustainable transport choices by staff and students
  • energy efficiency improvements
  • improved waste management to divert e-waste, organics and more recyclables from landfill
  • becoming an International Universities Climate Alliance member in 2020
  • a divestment strategy that has repositioned the University’s investment portfolio away from carbon-intensive investments
  • joining the Race to Zero in 2021
  • reducing embodied carbon by more than 32% in the new Rivers Edge and Willis Street buildings at our Inveresk campus, setting the standard for new builds
  • developing a new sustainability-focused catering model
  • leading community engagement and citizen science programs, such as Curious Climate Tasmania and Redmap marine monitoring of climate change impacts in species distribution

The University of Tasmania was named Sustainability Institution of the Year at the 2021 Green Gown Awards Australasia (the premier awards for the higher education sector) and is now one of five finalists worldwide for the title of Sustainability Institution of the Year in the International Green Gown Awards 2022. The University’s SIPS program also won the 2021 Australasian Student Engagement award and is a finalist for the International awards this year.

Photo:  The Vice Chancellor, Professor Rufus Black, with SIPS students Suellen Smosinksi (Masters in Social Work), Nate Brennan (Honours in Economics) and Jiayin Guo (PhD at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies).

Published on: 05 Jun 2022 7:23am