Emissions reduction, curriculum changes central to new Sustainability Plan

February 17 / 190

The University of Melbourne will be carbon neutral before 2030, achieve zero net emissions from electricity by 2021 and will now report annually on the institution’s sustainability impact and performance. 

That’s according to the University’s first institution-wide Sustainability Plan 2017-2020, an ambitious four-year strategy that will position Melbourne as a sector-leader in sustainability according to Vice-Principal Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer, Allan Tait.

The Plan also pushes for sustainability to become a more prominent part of all undergraduate curricula, as well as outlining the University’s response to calls to divest from fossil fuel-intensive companies.

“The University has a responsibility to lead strongly and act decisively in addressing global societal challenges, such as building a more sustainable world.”

“The Sustainability Plan clearly outlines the University’s commitment to this important task and highlights how Melbourne is acting on this front across all areas of the institution, with holistic actions and targets that will assist in tackling the impacts of climate change.”

On divestment, the University recognises that climate change impacts result in increased risk and potential opportunities for its investments, and that it must act to mitigate this risk.  It therefore plans to establish within a year a sustainable investment framework for evaluating and managing material climate change risk, and which will set out the criteria for divestment from and investment in listed equities.  

This framework will as far as possible cover factors such as a company’s emissions intensity, emissions reduction plans, alignment to the outcomes of global climate change agreements and investment in and transition to renewable energy.

“Within four years, the University will be divested from, or in the process of divesting from, any material holdings that don’t satisfy the requirements of this framework,” said Mr Tait. “This approach, and that of all of the commitments in this Plan, reflects the consolidated efforts and collective will of the University community.”

The Plan is the result of a more than 12 months of public consultation process that commenced in late 2015 with the development of the University’s Sustainability Charter. This process saw nearly 500 attendees across two events as well as hundreds of email submissions into the development of both the Plan and the Charter.

While the Charter establishes the high-level principles and values the University wishes to adopt when it came to sustainability, the Plan sets out a range of clear targets and priority actions for how the institutions will meet these principles.

Other key aims for the Plan include:

Reducing emissions by 20,000 tonnes of carbon per year by 2020 through on-campus energy projects such as solar, wind and geothermal;

Increasing the number of University of Melbourne graduates who can demonstrate a specialisation in environment and sustainability;

Replacing 10 per cent of University car parking spaces with bicycle parking by 2018;

Publishing a university-wide Biodiversity Management Plan; and,

Developing industry partnerships that emphasise our resources for sustainability research.

The University is home to approximately 1300 researchers who apply their expertise in fields relevant to sustainability and resilience said Mr Tait, and in partnership with industry, government and communities, this will support the transition to a more sustainable future.

“The plan is more than just a public statement of our commitment to sustainability.  It sets out an ambitious path towards new modes of governance and operations in a warming world, and reiterates our desire to work with industry to support and assist the transition to a lower emissions future.”

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