In a first for UK higher education, the London School of Economics and Political Science has been independently verified as carbon neutral for the academic year 2020/21, for all its measured emissions.
The School was verified by global certification organisation BSI, against the internationally recognised standard for carbon neutrality, PAS 2060. This status was attained through ongoing work by LSE to reduce its carbon footprint and mitigate its residual emissions by supporting carbon reduction projects.
The university’s direct emissions have reduced by 44 per cent since 2005, despite an increase in campus size and student numbers.
This was helped by a £4.8 million investment since 2015 in a range of energy efficiency measures for campus and residences buildings, including upgrading Building Management Systems, installing LED lights and advanced lighting controls, fitting solar panels, insulating pipes, or replacing boilers and chillers.
In addition, LSE has procured all the electricity it uses from 100 per cent renewable sources such as solar and wind since 2009 and has retrofitted its buildings to optimise energy use.
These combined efforts have made it possible for the School to take the additional measure of mitigating the emissions it cannot yet avoid, by partnering with the not for profit Compensate Foundation to support high-quality carbon reduction projects abroad.
Compensate takes a thorough approach in selecting and monitoring carbon mitigation projects for their integrity in delivering demonstrable carbon reduction impact.
The development of LSE’s carbon credits portfolio has also been an educational opportunity, with LSE academics and students actively involved. The LSE community voted for a portfolio focused on forest conservation projects, for their additional positive impacts on biodiversity and creating economic opportunities for local communities.
Going forward, the School is working to achieve its next target of becoming net zero carbon through delivering on the carbon reduction initiatives set out in its Sustainability Strategic Plan.
For example, LSE catering outlets are rolling out carbon impact food labelling on menus, helping customers make informed choices and increasing the uptake of plant-based options.
The Plan also includes the School’s Education for Sustainability initiative, which aims to embed sustainability across our teaching and learning experiences. This initiative supports academics to equip students to build a sustainable future and has put sustainability at the core of LSE100, LSE’s flagship interdisciplinary course for all undergraduate students.
Commenting on this achievement, LSE Director Minouche Shafik said: “Becoming Carbon Neutral is a key milestone for LSE and reflects years of efforts and investment to reduce our carbon emissions.
“We will continue to follow a challenging carbon reduction pathway aligned with climate science, to support the transition to a net-zero carbon world.”
Professor Nicholas Stern, Chair of LSE’s Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment added: “We hope LSE becoming Carbon Neutral is an inspiration for others to reduce their carbon footprint. Higher education institutions have a duty to show leadership and advocate for decisive action in tackling climate change, the challenge of our times.”
Niklas Kaskeala, Compensate Chief Impact Officer said: “Compensate carefully selects the highest quality carbon mitigation projects, using our stringent evaluation criteria created with our independent scientific panel. We are pleased to be a partner in supporting LSE mitigate its carbon emissions with integrity.”
Martin Townsend, Global Head of Sustainability at BSI, said: “In becoming the first organisation in the UK to be verified by BSI against its latest scheme LSE has successfully substantiated its carbon neutrality claims. This is an important and significant milestone. Reducing impacts on climate change is the most significant challenge we are facing today and LSE’s decision to verify its environmental claims positions the organisation as a true trailblazer.”