UCL wins the Green Gown Award for Climate Action

UCL has been working towards becoming a zero-carbon institution through their Positive Climate campaign

UCL has been announced as the winner of the prestigious Green Gown Award for Climate Action.

The Green Gown Awards received submissions from “74 finalists in 12 different categories” this year. UCL won the “2030 Climate Action” category award for their Positive Climate campaign. This follows from UCL obtaining the highest score (95/100) out of 519 UK institutions in the University Carbon League table.

UCL’s Positive Climate campaign started in October 2019 and set out with the aim of UCL becoming a zero-carbon institution by 2030.

The Green Gown Awards were established in 2004 and “recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges across the world”. These awards have become the “most prestigious recognition of best practice within the further and higher education sector”.

UCL’s Positive Climate campaign involves putting “students and staff at the heart of reducing our carbon footprint with a sector leading commitment to sustainability”. As part of the campaign the UCL Clean Energy Society led “an installation of solar panels in the halls of residence”, and the UCL Climate Action Society hosted a climate emergency symposium.

The campaign aims to “deliver a significant shift in the way we operate by combining a people-centric approach with data insights to empower staff and students to protect our planet”.

This involves moving away from fossil fuels, with:

  1. An investment of £10 million to make university buildings zero-carbon by 2024.
  2. The goal of the university using “100 per cent UCL owned renewable energy” by 2030.
  3. “A carbon pricing scheme to incentivise departments to reduce carbon emissions”.
  4. “A world-leading sustainable science programme (LEAF)”, which 20 universities are now using.
  5. UCL Grove, which now has 188 trees planted to start offsetting UCL staff and student carbon emissions.

By 2024 UCL’s climate action programme will lead to a planned reduction in CO2 emissions per year of 25,000 tonnes. The same effect would be achieved by “planting 400,000 trees every year”. Currently, the campaign has reduced CO2 emissions by more than 10,000 tonnes, which is “equivalent to planting 165,000 trees”.

The judges of the Green Gown Awards said the following about UCL’s campaign:

“This is a truly innovative and inspiring project. Empowerment of staff and students through a people-centric approach is to be applauded. Use of 100 per cent UCL owned renewables target, together with a well-considered and clear scope of three reduction programmes, is integral to everything.

“This was a very comprehensive application with demonstrated results and partnerships, precisely outlined targets, solid reporting and accountability components and good dissemination strategy. Congratulations.”

Richard Jackson, the Sustainability Director of Sustainable UCL said:

“Our commitment to become a zero-carbon university has brought our whole community together to innovate and test out new ideas. From carbon pricing to sustainable laboratories, we’re demonstrating how a fair and climate resilient university can operate.

“We’re proud to be recognised by the Green Gown Awards and would like to thank the judges, organisers and sponsors for their fantastic work in raising the profile of the phenomenal work that higher education is doing to lead the way and support other sectors to achieve the dream of net zero by 2030.”

For more information about how UCL is becoming more sustainable, check out @sustainableucl on Instagram.