Join the Race to Zero before 11th November 2024

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Heriot Watt University - UK

What is the name of your institution?

Heriot Watt University

Why did you sign up to the Race to Zero for Universities and Colleges?

Our forthcoming Net Zero Plan will be a feasible, costed plan of action and process-driven framework for emissions reductions across Scopes 1-3 to achieve net zero emissions between 2030 and 2035. As a global institution, we have signed the Race to Zero to make a public commitment to our entire community that we recognise the need for rapid, impactful emissions reductions, and that we have a plan as to how to achieve them. Net zero will not be achieved through the setting of targets and policy changes alone, it requires transparency of plan and process to demonstrate that every member of our community has a part to play in reducing their and our carbon footprint.

What have you achieved since you have joined the Race to Zero for Universities and Colleges? 

We have achieved year on year emissions reductions (Scopes 1 and 2 plus Scope 3 business travel, water and waste) for our UK campuses since 2014 and continue to build a greater understanding of our emissions profile, enabling us to form targeted reductions plans based on real world data. We have plans in place to enhance our understanding and reporting of our wider scope 3 emissions, largely in relation to travel and our broader supply chain. We will consult with our staff and students to determine how best to take immediate and impactful action. We have begun the consultation process with staff via survey, and students via inclusion on steering and workstream boards, to identify key priorities for how to set and achieve realistic interim and long-term emissions reduction targets. Our Scottish campuses already provide annual emission reports, we plan to apply the same reporting processes and transparency to our global campuses, and publish this in a publicly accessible location.

How are you leading the transition to net-zero? Consider the Leadership Practices and how you are engaging others to join the Race to Zero for Universities and Colleges or other Race to Zero campaigns.

We have appointed a Deputy Principal in Global Sustainability and continue to grow a wider sustainability team to coordinate, support and enact our Global Environmental Sustainability strategy. Our net zero pledge now features as a key announcement in our graduation ceremonies, we are building a public-facing net zero community hub to showcase why and how we plan to reach net zero and we are collaborating across the sector through networks developed with the aim of determining the most effective pathway to net zero. This includes being one of 21 institutions contributing to the development of UK Government Department for Education guidance on how the Higher Education sector can reach net zero.

What challenges have you had?

The major challenges facing the implementation of our Net Zero Plan centre around determining appropriate solutions, particularly with regards the decarbonisation of heat for our UK campuses (district heating systems, ASHPs, hydrogen etc.), and characterising the associated resource requirements. Understanding the scale of our Scope 3 emissions (largely our procurement supply chain and our travel and commuting emissions profiles) continues to be challenging, limiting our potential to begin to take meaningful action to measure, manage and reduce these particular emissions sources.

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