The University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy has become policy, following recent approval by the University Council. The key goals of the strategy are to “achieve net zero carbon and biodiversity net gain by 2035”. Funding will be supplied via the Oxford Sustainability fund, whose sources will include “[existing] sources of sustainability funding” and “ [a] sustainability charge on business flights”.
The strategy is composed of ten priority areas, which are research, curriculum, carbon emissions from energy consumption on the University estate, biodiversity, sustainable food, sustainable resource use, international travel, local travel, investments and learning from the pandemic. It contains concrete commitments in all areas, as well as four enablers which are governance, reporting, funding, and offsetting.
The strategy has been shaped by the student body. A consultation began in Autumn 2019, with the Oxford University Climate Assembly in the Sheldonian. The latest consultation in November 2020 took the form of an online survey, which received over 1200 responses. Students had the option to prioritise areas of action and comment on the strategy. In response, it has been adjusted to put greater priority on climate education as well as research and education around environmental justice. The strategy covers only the University, and not College policy.
“[It] is crucial the strategy is followed as a priority, and that individual Oxford colleges follow suit in setting net-zero targets” said the Action Director at Oxford Climate Society, Ellie Holton. The Decarbonise Oxford Campaign is using JCR motions to make colleges commit to net-zero policy. The strategy also contains no restrictions on conducting research for, or in collaboration with, fossil fuel companies.
“By maintaining financial and institutional ties with the fossil fuel industry,” says Oxford Climate Justice Campaign (OCJC), “our University perpetuates the unjust global power that these companies wield.” The campaign is currently writing a report which outlines links between Oxford and the fossil fuel industry, which will be published on 19 April 2021. Oxford Climate Society and OCJC are part of a collaboration of four student campaigners, working together with Oxford Student Union and Oxford Nature Conservation Society. Together they published a joint press release welcoming the University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy, but warned that “there’s more to be done”.