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Taking up the Carbon Challenge

Last week, the Scottish Government published both its draft Scottish Energy Strategy and draft Climate Change Strategy, outlining an ambitious vision for a low-carbon Scotland.

At first sight, the carbon targets in the Climate Change Act, and the Paris Accords, seem impossibly challenging. Can Scotland, and the European Union, really reduce emissions by 80% by 2050? And yet, this is what’s happening.

As a public body, SFC is required to report every year on progress towards our climate change targets. In November 2016 we submitted our second report – and it’s good news. Since we established our carbon footprint in 2008, SFC’s corporate emissions have reduced by 64%, to 122 tonnes of CO2. 

Taking up the Carbon ChallengeIn 2015, we were awarded the NUS Green Impact Gold Award, the first office in the UK to win Gold on its first attempt.  None of this would have been possible without the commitment of staff and our volunteer Carbon Champions, who ensured that we collectively completed 215 “greening actions” which achieved estimated carbon savings of 25,871kg CO2 and cost savings of £4,646.

Some of our 64% reduction since 2008 is due to reducing the size of our office and our staff headcount, which affects our main source of emissions: grid electricity. But also – behind the scenes – our IT team have made huge contributions by virtualising IT services and optimising our server infrastructure. 

Staff behaviours are important too: we have reduced our travel emissions by using conferencing and trains instead of flying (down 25% since last year, to 6 tonnes) and our recycling continues to increase (up 13% since last year, to 15 tonnes). 

Of course, the most significant impact SFC can make to reducing Scotland’s carbon emissions is via our funding policies and strategies. In December, the Board approved a 10-year strategy for infrastructure, which includes support for major reductions in the carbon footprints of colleges and universities. This will not be easy! But, with some of Scotland’s universities now committed to being ‘carbon neutral’ by 2050, there is no lack of ambition.

David Beards, Research & Innovation Team - 1 Feb 2017