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SFC response to Net Zero

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Karen Watt, SFC Chief ExecutiveFollowing its declaration of a climate emergency in 2019, the Scottish Government has set an ambitious target to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2045.

The transition to a net zero nation has major implications. It will shape the development of the future Scottish economy, change the way businesses and institutions think and work, and transform the lives of Scotland’s people.

Scotland’s colleges and universities already make significant contributions to sustainability and climate action, and they each have their own aspirations for environmental sustainability.

The Scottish Funding Council is committed to helping institutions achieve their own goals for climate change. Overarching this, at a national level we will hard-wire climate action and a fair transition to net zero into our own strategies, investments and framework for accountability. In order to accelerate change we will use our ability to bring people together to agree common courses of action.

We will work with our stakeholders, the Scottish Government and industry to accelerate climate action. Together, and driven by the transformational capabilities of Scotland’s colleges and universities, we can help create a prosperous, low-carbon future for Scotland and the world.

- Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council

- Mike Cantlay OBE, Chair of the Scottish Funding Council

Sustainability leadership

At the Scottish Funding Council we have reduced our own emissions by over 70 per cent since 2008. In the sector, we will continue to support and encourage colleges and universities to commit to meeting both the Scottish Government’s climate targets and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Scotland’s colleges published their Statement of Commitment to the Climate Emergency, and we are working with Scotland’s universities on a similar statement.

Research and Innovation

In the year it hosted the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, Scotland showcased to a global audience its world-class research and innovation on sustainability. COP26 provided an opportunity to attract investment and create international research partnerships and was a platform for wider public engagement about climate issues in Scotland.

Our funding for research and innovation works towards environmental sustainability through the development of technologies and expertise in colleges and universities aimed at reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment.

As a delivery partner for the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the Scottish Funding Council is supporting university research towards the United Nations series of Sustainable Development Goals.

We also fund Scottish Innovation Centres to support innovation and growth and we have funded two projects under the Climate Emergency Collaboration Challenge.

Finally, EAUC is a force for sustainability which exists to inspire and enable students, staff and leaders. Primarily funded in Scotland by SFC, we renewed our funding last year with a focus on leadership for the climate emergency.

Skills for the Climate Emergency

SFC has worked with its partner organisation, Skills Development Scotland and others, to develop a Climate Emergency Skills action plan.. We are also working with colleges, universities and industry to ensure the post school education sector can respond to emerging and future skills needs in support of a green recovery. The focus is on the key actions needed over the next period to 2025.

Additionally, through the administration of the Scottish Government’s Flexible Workforce Development Fund and the National Transition Training Fund we are helping to fund the transition to new green jobs.

Outcome Agreement funding

Scottish Funding Council outcome agreements require colleges, universities and specialist institutions to demonstrate leadership and a whole-institutional approach to achieving environmental sustainability.

Capital and Climate Change

The Scottish Funding Council’s Financial Transactions programme has supported a wide range of estates and climate change projects since 2017.

More broadly, we are prioritising and implementing carbon reduction capital investment programmes to meet the Climate Change Act targets. As well as helping colleges and universities to reduce their carbon footprints our funding is helping to secure new investment in research and innovation for the low carbon economy.