The University of Essex has declared a climate and ecological emergency and is calling on its 20,000-strong community to help find solutions.

The declaration recognises the considerable impact the University has on the environment and the need to take decisive action in response to climate change. The University is asking staff and students to help develop a Climate Action Plan. A consultation, to be launched in January, will ask all sections of the University’s community to help find ways to go “further, faster” in cutting emissions, reducing its environmental impact and supporting biodiversity. This wide-ranging review will see the University look again at its approach to education and research.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, said:

I am proud that our University has taken the significant step of declaring a climate and ecological emergency. 2020 has been a year like no other, but each new challenge reminds me of the vital role our University community has in finding solutions. We have made real progress on sustainability in recent years, but we know we need to go further, faster, now. I hope today’s declaration will provide momentum as we launch a wide-ranging conversation with our community. Our task? To look again at everything we do within the context of the climate and ecological emergency.

Molly Purcell
Molly Purcell. Essex students’ union president

The University’s declaration comes after intensive work. At the end of 2019, staff and students presented a petition calling for action. In February 2020, the University established a Climate Emergency Group, drawing on all sections of the community, to work towards today’s declaration.Students’ Union President Molly Purcell said:

The climate emergency is a serious issue globally, and as a Students’ Union we stand with the University in making this declaration and working towards its aims. We may be a small part of the world, but this declaration demonstrates that Essex students want to have an impact. We have made our student voice heard and I have high hopes for the future and the positive impact we can all make

The University has reduced its carbon emissions by 28% since 2005 and uses 100% certified renewable electricity. The solar panels installed on campus roofs already provide 2.5% of our electricity needs, with more solar projects planned. The University is currently ranked 44th in the People & Planet University League, a rise of 80 places since the previous league table. In October, Wivenhoe Park, the University’s Colchester Campus, received a Green Flag Award for the fourth year running. Last week, the park retained its place in the UK’s top ten green spaces, following a public vote.

Rob Davey
Rob Davey. Head of sustainability and grounds

Rob Davey, Head of Sustainability and Grounds and a member of the University’s Climate Emergency Group, said:

Today’s announcement is crucial as it signals a step change in our approach to sustainability. It demonstrates that we acknowledge and care about our impact and that we are committed to taking the next steps. We are asking all sections of our community to contribute to this process. Our diverse, international community gives us the opportunity to hear a wide range of perspectives, which we hope will deliver a Climate Action Plan that is both ambitious and achievable

Source: University of Essex

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European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.