As part of a new target for carbon neutrality by 2030, the institution will pay to offset one return journey a year for every student from outside Europe.
“There’s a clear demand from students and staff that we go further and faster”
Offsetting is one way the university – recently crowned the University of the Year by THE – will aim to reduce its “carbon footprint as much as possible between now and 2035”, while it seeks to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2030.
“Universities have a unique role to play in the fight against climate change,” said chief operating officer and university secretary, and co-chair of the university’s Sustainability Working Group, David Duncan.
“We are educators, researchers, and contributors to our local communities. It is vital that we rise to the challenge of shaping a liveable world for future generations.”
Although Glasgow has only committed to funding offsetting for students from outside Europe, the institution will “be encouraging all staff and students to reflect on their travel arrangements and reduce aeroplane travel where practical”, a spokesperson explained.
In 2018/19, the institution’s total carbon footprint was 60,358 tCO2 e – a decrease of 13.27% in 2016/17.
By 2020/21 it is aiming to reduce the footprint further, to reach 55,500 tCO2 e, which Glasgow has said it will only meet as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic dramatically reducing commuting and business travel since March 2020.
The institution has added that if emissions are reduced to 37,000 tCO 2 e per annum by 2030, offsetting would cost around £740,000 per year from 2030, reducing to approximately £640,000 per annum from 2035.
The financial costs of achieving net carbon neutrality by 2030 will be built into financial and capital plans, which will be carefully monitored.
In addition to “salving our institutional conscience”, offsetting can deliver “tangible benefits” such as reforested land or restored peatland in Scotland potentially offering research and learning opportunities for academics and students and projects in low- & middle-income countries improving quality of life for people around the world.
“We believe that our new strategy is a very significant plan to ramp up our existing efforts to deal with the climate emergency, both locally and internationally,” Duncan added.
“As we head towards the COP26 meeting in Glasgow next year, we now have a clearer roadmap on where we need to be in 2030 to help contribute to that international effort,” Daniel Haydon from Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health & Comparative Medicine said.
“There’s a clear demand from students and staff that we go further and faster, and we’ve responded with serious new commitments to cut our own carbon emissions and offset the remainder.”
“Students are well aware of the impact the climate emergency will have on our future so it’s great to see the university recognise this and come out with this new strategy,” president of the Glasgow University Student Representative Council Liam Brady agreed.