A third off over five years

The University of Reading has slashed its CO2 emissions and is aiming to go further

Reducing carbon emissions by 35% in just over five years and saving £17m in the process is some achievement. But for the University of Reading this is only the start. It is now targeting a further 10% reduction by 2021 while increasing student numbers and expanding its campus facilities.

Reading has cut its annual carbon emissions to 28,573 tonnes compared with 43,984 tonnes in the 2008–09 academic (baseline) year. Reducing them on such a scale has cost the university about £4m. Investment includes replacing old lighting systems, improving insulation, expanding building control systems and installing energy-efficient equipment.

The impressive performance at Reading contrasts with slow progress in the higher education sector overall. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) set a 43% carbon reduction target for the sector by 2020 against 2005 levels. Sustainability consultancy Brite Green reported last autumn that English universities were projected to reduce emissions by just 15% by then, and that more than 70% of institutions were unlikely to meet their own carbon targets.

Getting started

The executive board signed off the university’s carbon management plan in 2011, allocating £3.5m for reduction measures between July 2011 and July 2016. Energy and sustainability manager Dan Fernbank describes the 35% reduction target as ‘ambitious’: ‘It was at the higher end of ...

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