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Carbon Emission Targets Explained

The University of Warwick declared a Climate Emergency in September 2019.
We committed to achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2030 (Scope 1&2) and by 2050 (Scope 3).

Action to achieve this is well-advanced and the University will be publishing our Way to Sustainable high-level routemap very soon with a more detailed action plan following in early 2022.

We complete an annual assessment of carbon emissions, and we were amongst the first UK Universities to develop a Carbon Management Plan. In 2005, we took part in the Higher Education Carbon Management Programme (HECMP). This resulted in a carbon emissions baseline and the development of a Carbon Management Implementation Plan.

This was completed in collaboration with the UK’s Carbon Trust, and endorsed by them; it therefore adopts the Carbon Trust’s established framework to measure Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. In 2020, the University included an assessment of Scope 3 emissions for the first time. However, the standards on how to calculate Scope 3 emissions – and the data which underpin this – are still emerging.

The University has used available procurement data and ONS conversion factors for the goods and services we use.
A range of verified estimates, survey data, and external estimates have been used to estimate emissions for building materials, construction, and travel.

View our most recent performance report here. 

Meaning of Net Zero

Net Zero refers to the understanding that we will still need to emit some emissions but we will reduce as much as possible and offset the remaining emissions to equal zero. This differs from Carbon Neutral as this means that no emissions are created at all.

Infographic by: Walmart Sustainability Hub

Scope 1 = Emissions created by combustion to generation of energy on campus from our Combined Heat and Power plants (which are still one of the best ways to create energy), gas burnt in boilers, petrol/diesel used in University vehicles and some LPG that is used in limited locations.

Scope 2 = Emissions created from purchased energy (electricity) as we do not generate enough of our own electricity on campus. This is used for lighting, computers and electrical equipment being used.

Scope 3 = Emissions created by others that are outside the direct control of the University but are created because of our activities for example students and staff travelling to campus, waste being collected, and items being purchased.

 What about the other greenhouse gases?
The targets are Carbon equivalent so we are seeking to reduce all emissions and the way we report on these will be equal to the impact they have on the environment e.g. Methane is 23x more damaging than Carbon Dioxide which is why people are encouraged to reduce their red meat intake.


Greenhouse Gases are:

  • Water vapor (H2O)
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O)
  • Ozone (O3)
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (includes HCFCs and HFCs)