What does net-zero carbon emissions mean to Newcastle University?


Newcastle University has set a goal to be net-zero on carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Initially this goal was set for 2040, however upon recognising the international urgency of many environmental issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss, Newcastle University took the brave decision to move this goal forward by ten years.  

The term ‘net zero’ can be a complex and multi-faceted term, this blog post aims to outline what the term means to Newcastle University and why it is important when discussing all things climate change and carbon related.  

Definition of net zero 

“Achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gases produced and those taken out of the atmosphere. This should be achieved through a rapid reduction in carbon emissions, but where zero carbon is not possible, offsetting through carbon credits or sequestration through technological or nature-based solutions needs to be utilised” 1.  

With this definition, emphasis is placed on attempts to reduce carbon emissions opposed to focusing on offsetting initiatives. Multiple institutions across Newcastle city centre are working towards net-zero carbon emissions including Newcastle University, so they became a member of Newcastle City’s Net Zero Task Force (NZTF) in 2019.  

If you are wondering what Newcastle University is doing regarding climate change then we would recommend that you check out the Climate Action Plan. Within the Climate Action Plan there are phases outlined which explain how the university aims to address the goal of being net-zero for carbon emissions by 2030. The plan addresses the various ways that carbon emissions are produced across the university which are categorised into scopes, so it is easier to address the forms of direct and indirect emissions.  

What is a scope?  

The term scope in this context originates from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol that was released in 2001. Scopes can be described as categories that institutions, organisations, and corporations can use to examine the variety of their greenhouse gas emissions and set targets for reduction.  

How many scopes are involved in achieving net zero at Newcastle University? 

There are three scopes identified within the University’s Climate Action Plan. Our net zero target applies to Scopes 1 and 2, and we have ambitious targets for reducing Scope 3 emissions.

Scope 1 covers direct emissions from combustion or generation by university-owned or controlled sources. This includes the burning of fuels directly by activities such as using university-owned vehicles and the burning of fuels to heat and refrigerate across campus. Meanwhile, Scope 2 covers indirect sources of consumption and purchase of energy from outside the University which can includes electricity purchased from the grid but is used by the campus.

Scope 3 includes emissions that that the University is indirectly responsible for across their entire value chain, and is often the most difficult scope to monitor and account for. Whilst Scope 3 emissions are not currently covered within our net-zero carbon target, we are implementing a similar, phased carbon budget approach in order to better monitor our progress.

Climate Action Event  

By now you may have heard that an event is taking place during enrichment week on the 10th of November, the event is called Climate Action at Newcastle University.  

During this event, staff and students will be coming together to discuss phase 2 of Newcastle University’s Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action event is being held to assess the progress Newcastle University has made in phase 1 of the plan and to help shape the next steps in phase 2.  

Our travel better session and nature positivity sessions still have places if you would like to join. Below are links to the sign-up form and program for the event if you would like some more information.

Program: Programme Poster2.pdf (ncl.ac.uk)

Sign up: https://bit.ly/3CFum4r

Thanks for reading, keep an eye out for the next blog post next week!

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