The 2018 Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) annual conference was held last week at Keele University, and the Carbon Credentials team was in attendance for the fifth year in a row!
The conference this year was as good as ever and the whole team all agreed how much we enjoyed the inspirational speakers, the practical tips and the inevitable ceilidh band. While I don’t think that my dancing has improved since last year, it was refreshing to hear the developments and progress being made from across the sector.
Specifically, it was exciting to see the steps that delegates have taken to understand and integrate the Sustainable Development Goals since last year (as illustrated below). This improvement was no doubt helped by the launch of the SDG Accord in September 2017.
Over two days I had conversations on all sorts of issues, but there were three key topics that I found most delegates were keen to explore:
1. Setting longer-term targets in line with climate science
Following Richard’s plenary session, where he explored what a science-based carbon reduction trajectory could look like under a 2°C or a 1.5°C warming scenario, this was a subject we kept coming back to during the conference.
As discussed in more detail in a previous blog, my view is setting carbon reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement should be a no-brainer for all higher education institutions. If we consider that the UK university sector has its own carbon budget to keep global temperature increase below 2°C and pursue efforts for 1.5°C, then it’s important that each individual university understands what its fair share of this budget is.
If they don’t then it could be considered that they’re rejecting the climate science or not pulling their weight. It also signals an expectation that other institutions will have to do more than their fair share.
2. Smart buildings and data-driven optimisation
Smart buildings are by no means a new thing, but the high availability and the low cost of technologies to make them a reality is.
In recent years the cost of data storage has significantly decreased, there is a greater availability of connected devices, and the ability of machines and analytics tools to make sense of this data has significantly improved. Delegates and exhibitors kept coming back to the opportunity to use data and technology to raise awareness, enhance understanding and improve control.
Greater granularity of data allows us to provide insight to a wider variety of audiences that can act. Analysis can be enriched with context and clarity, as well as providing evidence of success.
And it doesn’t stop there! Fortunately, modernity is catching up with the BMS world. Not only are newer systems increasingly flexible and easier to communicate with, but hardware now exists that can integrate older systems into modern data networks for analysis. The opportunities that access to this data represents is like a digital gold rush, with those able to make the best use of the data gaining the biggest rewards.
3. Desire to finally get to grips with Scope 3 emissions
We often get asked why Scope 3 emissions should be a focus for institutions and always offer a simple answer: by leading on the carbon management agenda that transcends your estate, institutions can widen their influence and demonstrate their global position in higher education.
In a sector that is being increasingly led by students, taking the lead on sustainability and overcoming commonly shared limitations can make all the difference.
Scope 3 emissions arise upstream and downstream of an organisation as a result of operations not directly controlled by it. A UK university should expect that its Scope 3 emissions will be at least 50% of its total emissions. Getting a better understanding of Scope 3 emissions and setting achievable targets will enhance your positive impact and give further opportunities to engage with your value chain.
Thanks to all our Higher Education clients, the EAUC and Keele University for an enjoyable couple of days. We look forward to working with you over the coming year to enable a global low-carbon economy.