This blog follows up a recent all-staff presentation on the University’s Net Zero Carbon strategy, aiming to address the key questions raised.
The University has invested over £500,000 in improved on-campus pedestrian and cycling facilities over the last 5 years, but we recognise that many of the barriers to more active travel lie outside of our boundaries. We do actively engage with the local councils, have supported the installation of a much-needed pedestrian crossing on Pepper Lane and have committed our support for a crossing on Upper Redlands Road too.
Reading Borough Council currently has a live consultation on proposed active travel improvements on Shinfield Road, which we are supporting, including through hosting a Council drop-in event at the SportsPark Pavilion on Tuesday 16 November 15:30 – 19:30. We encourage you to come along, or have your say here – www.reading.gov.uk/activetravel
Whilst electric scooters may have a role to play in the future, they are not currently legal for use on Reading’s paths or roads and we therefore discourage their use.
We have specific planning obligations we need to meet to continue to encourage alternatives to single-occupancy car use, and whilst we recognise that car travel is often a necessity, will continue to work to encourage and support alternatives as a first priority.
Our current ‘in scope’ carbon footprint on which we report carbon reduction progress includes business travel, but excludes travel to/from campus, including for students at the start/end of term. This is in line with many other universities, but we recognise the need to consider wider emissions and will seek to do so over time. We do already provide transparent information on all in and out of scope emissions over which we have some measure, in our Annual Report, due for publication in early November.
Alternatives to travel
Home working and alternatives to travel have become much more prevalent due to the COVID pandemic and any alternative approaches for both will need to be considered, both through the Ways of Working group, and the proposed Travel working group.
Likewise, the carbon benefits or otherwise of home working are complex and are also likely to vary across individuals and departments. We recognise there is a risk of University buildings continuing to be heated/ventilated as usual, whilst many staff are also working at home, whilst conversely, for some, this may be offset by travel emission savings.
We are actively working on plans to develop School and Function environmental footprints, to help understand the impacts we have at a more local level – and hopefully help encourage local as well as more centralised action.
We do include halls on our campus within our carbon footprint, though in strict terms, we should treat these as ‘scope 3’ emissions, which are not directly ours, but other which we can have some influence. We are increasingly looking at opportunities to work with/influence tenants to become more sustainable and have ambitions for the Thames Valley Science Park Innovations Valleys to be net zero carbon from the outset.
Carbon offsetting is undoubtedly a controversial topic, but we believe that done well, it has an important role to play in a lower carbon future, and we will take our time to consider our approach carefully – prioritising absolute emission reductions first. Some further thoughts on this topic are here.
If you sign up/are signed up to Doing #UoRBit, you can even gain points for making sustainability suggestions!
There has been a lot of investment by Maintenance in improving building fabric in recent years, with multiple double glazing and roof replacement projects – most recently in TOB2 – but of course, there’s always more to do!
Incentives for staff
The suggestion for partnering with organisations such as solar photovoltaic installers, electric vehicle leasing companies and the like is an interesting one, which would no doubt have some tax implications and need much further investigation. There was in fact a low carbon vehicle leasing scheme until recently, but this was dropped because of poor take up. Details of current travel offers for staff and students can be found here.