The Commitment came together through joint working of Colleges Scotland, Energy Skills Partnership and College Development Network who have been looking at how colleges can best accelerate their response to the climate emergency.
Climate change is a multi-faceted problem that includes all people and organisations across the world, and for Scotland’s 26 colleges the link is very clear. College estates themselves – the bricks and mortar of our campuses – emit carbon and the methods of transport used by both staff and students to travel to college contribute to those figures. While there are some great local initiatives, current services offered within colleges such as catering and the materials we use in our courses could be greener. Nationally, it is time to address the climate emergency together.
The Commitment will allow colleges to fulfil their ambition of seeing real change throughout the college community, not only at an institutional level but also reaching further out into the behaviours and daily practices of staff and students, and responsible to the communities around colleges. For example, one of the 10 key actions commits colleges to work with Scottish industry,
employers, public sector bodies and others to improve working practices and find practical solutions to climate change and to make our planet safe for future generations. Another action will see each college publish an action plan to address on-campus and supply chain emissions over a five-year period and beyond.
As Scotland moves into a new era of green jobs for a green recovery, colleges, as part of key infrastructure, will continue to upskill and reskill people into green industries and environmentally beneficial roles. The breadth of career options in sustainability work is enormous and colleges not only consider it their responsibility to promote green jobs and train the workforce for these but are also integral to the delivery of the training required. Across the country, with a keen look at regional economies, colleges are offering world-class education and training in courses including renewable energy production, electric vehicle technology, and sustainable design.
Some local initiatives within colleges have been so successful they have won Green Gown Awards for staff and students working collaboratively on sustainability. Colleges are acutely aware of how they contribute to climate change and with that awareness has come a focus and drive to combat the emergency, leading by example and encouraging the communities they serve to recognise and understand their contribution to climate change on an individual level thereby fostering a sense of personal responsibility to make the changes necessary, another action point in the Commitment.
There’s real enthusiasm within every college to think creatively about how each organisation can support Scotland’s efforts to achieve net-zero climate emissions by 2045 or earlier if possible, with Scotland’s colleges aiming to achieve net-zero by 2040 or earlier. COP26 coming to Glasgow this autumn is another key moment for staff and students to reflect on where colleges can fit into the discussion about the environment and sustainability. The Commitment sets the stage for colleges to play their part.
Natalie Webster is a Policy Officer at Colleges Scotland. You can read the Commitment here: https://www.cdn.ac.uk/tackling-climate-emergency/