The University of Tasmania has been certified carbon neutral since 2016, one of only two Australian universities who are. This is based on our long recognition of the climate emergency and our desire to take a leadership role in research and operational changes, both within the sector and more broadly.
We seek to be an exemplar for other organisations working towards net carbon neutrality by 2050 and encourage them to act sooner.
The University of Tasmania joined the global Race To Zero campaign in 2021, the largest ever alliance committed to halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Backed by the United Nations, the campaign involves more than 4000 companies, 250 financial institutions, over 3000 hospitals and 813 universities and colleges worldwide.
Race to Zero requires its signatories to follow these four steps:
- Pledge: to have a 2050 or sooner net zero target.
- Plan: explain what steps will be taken toward achieving net zero.
- Proceed: taking action towards net zero. Carbon neutral certification requires demonstrating where emissions reductions are being made, not just buying offsets.
- Publish: commit to report on your progress annually, for transparency and to be an example to other institutions.
By the time we signed on to Race To Zero, we had already met all of the targets that signatories were required to work towards. But according to Corey Peterson, University of Tasmania Associate Director Sustainability, that was exactly why it was so important for the University to join the campaign.
“The campaign isn’t pushing us to do anything we weren’t already doing, but that’s what makes us so globally relevant,” he says. “Sustainability is not just an add-on policy, it’s at the core of who we are. The fact that we’ve already achieved those goals is contributing to that groundswell to force governments to try that little bit harder, to convince leaders to change.
“Charles Sturt University was the first university in Australia to be certified carbon neutral and they only just pipped us at the post! We’re currently the only two, so we work closely together to be consistent and to jointly set the standard for other institutions to follow.”
Steps taken by the University of Tasmania include:
- Supporting travel mode changes to more sustainable options (active and public transport)
- Increasing the use of electric and hybrid cars in our fleet of vehicles
- Environmentally sustainable designs for our new buildings and in refurbishments
- Energy efficiency programs, especially lighting and heating
- Significant changes in our printing model delivering lower energy and paper use
- Increasing our use of solar power
- Publicly reporting our emissions, offsets and reductions annually
- Offsetting our remaining emissions through carbon offset projects both domestic and international.
University of Tasmania alumna Zoe Douglas-Kinghorn – who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in legal studies, journalism and literature in 2018 – was the co-convenor of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and an intern for the Sustainability Integration Program for Students (SIPS) during her time at the University.
She says the University’s commitment to Race To Zero not only sets a good example to other organisations but is a validation of the concerns of the student body over many years. It also shows that we are listening to our own world-leading climate researchers.
“When I joined the University in 2015, groups like Fossil Free UTAS had already been working really hard for about a decade to raise awareness of this issue and there was a lot of support from students and staff for becoming carbon neutral,” she says.
“So, seeing the University get its net carbon neutrality certification in 2016 was extremely satisfying, and being part of Race To Zero means other organisations can benefit from seeing what we’ve been able to achieve.”
Now that the University of Tasmania is carbon neutral, where to from here? Mr Peterson says the logical next steps are to focus on continuing the downward carbon trend with a climate positive focus and broadening our sustainability efforts into other areas.
“We continue to focus lowering our emissions, even as we have increasing numbers of staff and students on our campuses,” he says. “And while carbon neutrality is essential, we also need to focus on other aspects of sustainability.
“We need to look at health and wellbeing, issues of social equity and inclusion, enabling people to make sustainable choices, biodiversity loss and climate justice, as well as supporting the emerging circular economy.”