2010 vision: Oxford’s 3% pledge

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Environmentalists have given mixed reactions to a new climate change pledge by the University.

The University has signed on to the 10:10 Campaign, which aims to persuade individuals and organisations to reduce their carbon emissions by at least ten percent before the end of 2010.

But rather than sign up to the full target, the University has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by at least three percent before 31st March 2011, with an “aspirational target” of ten percent.

The University said that this was in line with the target set for universities by the 10:10 campaign.

The move was welcomed by both Mae Penner, the head of OUSU’s Environment and Ethics Campaign, and Thames Valley Climate Action.

To meet the pledge, the University has published an “Energy Toolkit”, with advice on reducing energy use. It includes suggestions that students reduce double-spaced type to 1 1/2 spaced when printing, and that lecture theatres are not cooled to below 24 degrees celsius. The University has also pledged to produce quarterly energy reports.

But Penner said the plan was inadequate and that the University was unlikely to meet its target until it made major structural changes to the way it uses energy.

“The University’s carbon emissions from energy have been increasing at a faster rate since 2005 than at any other time in the last twenty years.

“If there is any chance of the University meeting these targets [the toolkit]…needs to be more than an advisory guide to best practice. Politely advising departments and students to try to save energy where they can is not going to result in the hoped-for reductions,” Penner said.

The University’s energy management strategy already has pledged to reduce emissions by 34% compared to 1990 levels before 2020, and 80% by 2050.

The University has calculated its current annual carbon emissions to be 79,140 tonnes, based upon grid electricity use. It estimated a ten percent reduction to be equivalent to closing two chemistry research laboratories.

Professor David Bannister, the acting head of the University’s Centre for the Environment, said that the pledge was “potentially realistic, depending on what is included in the target”.

“It’s a bit late, and we’ve not been as aggressive as many other universities – but we’ve got there,” Bannister said.

In joining the 10:10 campaign, Oxford follows more than 50,000 other organisations. St Peter’s College, announced its pledge to join the 10:10 campaign on 27th January of this year.