Suffolk records biggest university sector decrease in carbon emissions

22 June 2023
Time to read
5 minute read
Solar panels on the roof of The Atrium Building, with a view out of the skyline

The University of Suffolk has seen the biggest decrease in carbon emissions out of nearly 120 universities across the UK since 2015/16, according to new data.

Figures released this week by the Higher Education Statistics Agency revealed that the University achieved a 64 per cent decrease in Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions between 2015/16 and 2021/22 – the biggest decrease out of 119 universities for which there was data every year.

Scope 1 emissions are those caused from the combustion of fuel, such as natural gas or by university-controlled sources, while Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the purchase and consumption of electricity supplied by the grid. This excludes emissions from the supply chain, transport, and waste.

The University’s emissions output was 740.7 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2021/22 – a significant fall on the 2,032.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent recorded for 2015/16.

Nigel Lucker, Director of Estates at the University of Suffolk, said: “We are immensely proud to have emerged as the frontrunner within the HEI sector, securing a first-place position for our decarbonisation operations. This achievement reflects our unwavering commitment to sustainability, a central aspect of our Estates Strategy, and stands as a testament to the pursuit of tried and innovative solutions driving transformative change for our facilities.”

Justine Oakes, Head of Sustainability and Programmes at the University of Suffolk said: “Through a rolling programme of refurbishment works, retrofit and building improvements we have made a series of positive changes that includes generating renewable energy through PV panels and procuring our campus electricity from verified renewable energy suppliers. We have also introduced thermal solar hot water heating and an LED lighting upgrade across most campus buildings.

“Our efforts to reduce carbon emissions do not stop here however, and we have a unique opportunity to continue to drive change towards net zero and lead best practice through our campus operations, research and education.”

The University has introduced a host of vital measures to reduce its carbon output over that period, including:

  • Electrification of hot water heating across most campus buildings by removing the main boiler house
  • Onsite PV panels generating renewable energy supplementing a renewable energy contract where all campus electricity is procured from a verified renewable energy supplier
  • LED lighting upgrades across most campus buildings, with additional rollout to follow
  • Full low-carbon building retrofits of the Health and Wellbeing and Atrium buildings
  • Fabrication insulation including new windows, roof coverings and wall insulation in the library and Long Street
  • Controlling building heating and cooling and identifying areas of anomaly
  • An ongoing programme of space utilisation
  • Agile working enabling a switch to laptops rather than PC and monitors, thereby reducing power consumption and equipment left on overnight standby
  • Collaborative partnerships and research with industry partners and local stakeholder knowledge exchange.

The measures demonstrate the vital role universities play in driving behavioural change and encouraging others to consider how they can reduce their own environmental impact.

Professor Helen Langton MBE, Vice-Chancellor and CEO of the University, commented: “I am delighted to see the University make such great progress on reducing carbon emissions, and couldn’t be prouder of the work our Sustainability and Estates teams have been doing in this area.

“The figures demonstrate how seriously we take our sustainability responsibilities, and we must continue to do all we can to achieve carbon neutrality for Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030.”

National data encompassing all 119 universities for which data was available every year demonstrated a 30 per cent fall in 2021/22 with 1.3 million tonnes of Scope 1 and 2 emissions compared to 1.84 million in 2015/16.

It is the latest accolade for the University of Suffolk on its work to reduce its environmental impact, after securing the Green Business of the Year Award at the Creating the Greenest County Awards in March.

Judges there stated that the University had “really got to grips with its Net Zero ambition, demonstrating a consistent vision for environmental excellence”.

In February last year, Suffolk was ranked in the top ten out of 154 universities for its waste and recycling achievements by People and Planet UK, with a recycling rate of 97 per cent.

For press enquiries, please contact: