In a decision born out of a 500-signature strong petition and a letter to the vice chancellor signed by around 100 academics, the University of Bristol has become the first in the UK to declare a climate change emergency.
Biology student Giles Atkinson, who led the student petition, said: ‘’Universities have an opportunity in being leaders to the response to climate change. This declaration will help communicate the urgency of the situation and inspire further action. We hope that other universities follow suit.”
The university made a similar promise back in 2015 and since 2005 they have been successful in reducing their carbon emissions by 27 per cent. This news comes following the Bristol City Council announcing plans for the city to become carbon neutral by 2030.
The University of Bristol’s targets have been achieved through more sustainable behaviours, which have been welcomed by both students and staff alike – this includes low emission bus services and efforts to compost food waste rather than sending it straight to landfill.
Researchers at the university were leading authors on a report published in October 2018 which revealed the damaging effects a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees could have on the planet. The consequences, which are not a distant concern according to the researchers, could include extreme food and water shortages, an increasing number of heat related deaths and extreme weather temperatures that are both more frequent and more severe.
The academics involved in the research fought hard for their voices to be heard and the students have also been campaigning for months to have the climate emergency acknowledged by their university.
Professor Dale Southerton, a lead in climate change research for the university said: ‘’We understand how important it is for the university to declare a climate emergency, because we work on these issues on a daily basis and understand not only their complexity but also the urgency in addressing them.”