So, what have they pledged? They have joined 140 other universities in saying they will tackle climate change, including facilitating student projects around climate change. The document sets out pledges that all of the involved universities are to follow – these include net zero by 2050.
Newcastle itself pledged separately to get to net zero in 2030 - they have made a climate action plan document detailing the steps they will take. Net zero is explained on the action plan to not mean zero emissions, but that emissions produced will be captured or offset. Alongside this, the statement by Newcastle University mentions that the UK universities have committed to working together to support the government's plans.
The action plan is a 62 page document which includes a timeline of what they have done so far and their next steps. Dubbed as the '10 point plan for the future', it includes energy origin and procurement, energy use, investments, purchased goods and travel.
In terms of what the university have done; there is a timeline showing awards they have received, noting previous pledges and plans they have made, an audit on sustainability that was carried out throughout the campus and more.
They have reduced emissions by 43% so far and have divested from fossil fuels. Divestment is definitely a step in the right direction, especially compared to universities such as University of Birmingham which have made no such commitment.
I'm glad they have a plan, but will this translate into action, and is the plan good enough?
In my opinion 2050, even 2030 is too late. We are already past the planetary boundary for climate change; the level of carbon emissions the planet can safely take without irreversible damage. We need radical action immediately. It is hard to have faith in the commitments when we hear echoes of these again and again from companies, governments etc, which are either greenwashing or lies.
Even if UK universities are committed to supporting the government's plans - how does this help us when the government's plans aren’t good enough? I think universities should be doing more than just supporting these plans, they should be lobbying the government to do more.
It says on the UK universities page that students are responsible for holding universities accountable. I think students have done this – it should be the responsibility of the universities to use their collective power to lobby the government. I am cynical to say the least, let's hope they prove me wrong.
Saying this, we cannot lose hope. We must keep protesting and taking collective action to hold both the university and government accountable. Being part of community groups and watching the activists at COP26 makes me feel optimistic for the future we ARE going to have.