From March to May 2023, STACEES hosted an event series ‘Net Zero and the Direction of Travel in Scottish HE’. This four-part event series explored three key strands of travel through hybrid delivery talks delivered by a range of invited speakers, plus a chaired open discussion. The events were open to all staff, students and community members.
Thanks to the series discussion Chair, Dr Lydia Cole from the School of Geography and Sustainable Development, we have a handy summary of the talk topics below. You can also find links to the videos of the first three events in the summary.
Series Summary: Net Zero and the Direction of Travel in Scottish HE
How can Scotland’s higher education institutions lead the way in supporting the UK government’s Net Zero ambitions? Where are we right now and where do the future challenges lie? How can the transition towards more sustainable travel be inclusive, fair and support Scotland’s research and teaching ambitions?
Part 1: ‘Internationalization, sustainability and the contested environmental impacts of International Student Mobility’, Dr David McCollum, School of Geography and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews. 14 March 2023.
- Internationalisation vs. sustainability
- Approx. one third of St Andrews students are international
- Whose responsibility is it to find a solution?
- Attitude-behaviour gap
- Greenwashing vs. fundamental change
Part 2: ‘University business travel emissions: problems, solutions and actions you can take away today’, Lara Fahey, EAUC Scotland (Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education). 27 March 2023.
- Huge reductions required by Scottish Government (80% by 2030)
- Equality and social justice
- Cost implications
- University of Oxford’s approach and other initiatives to explore
Part 3: ‘Making the shift: How do we change our local travel habits to meet our business, personal and climate targets in St Andrews?’, Ali Macleod, Transition University of St Andrews (Estates Department). 19 April 2023.
- Huge amount of work on local lower-carbon/’sustainable’ travel initiatives
- Focus = reducing single person car use
- Challenge of engagement and feedback
- Mosaic of approaches needed – “building an ecosystem of shared travel modes“
- “Infrastructure changes need to align with behaviour change to make the right choice easy and wrong choices hard”
- [link to bus survey that is now closed] UStA Bus survey 2023 (onlinesurveys.ac.uk)
Part 4: ‘Net Zero and directing our travel as a leader in Scottish HE? A conversation at the University of St Andrews’, Dr Lydia Cole, School of Geography and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews. 2 May 2023.
- Who gets to travel?
- Potential for expanding local initiatives, such as ‘local conference hubs’, as discussed at a November 2022 STACEES talk Local Hub Conferences as a Sustainable Alternative to International Travel? by Dr Carol Sparling (School of Biology), and Dr Alison Johnston (School of Mathematics and Statistics), both from the University of St Andrews.
- UKRI stance on carbon offsetting: “insufficient evidence that carbon offsetting is an effective means of achieving permanent carbon reductions.” UKRI publishes position statement on carbon offsetting – UKRI.
- Environmental Sustainability Policy Working Group (ESPWG) launched in School of Geography and Sustainable Development in 2021
- ESPWG remit includes travel: Travel survey; capturing your thoughts/concerns (whiteboard); fieldtrips ‘audit’ and spreadsheet; DP&L (travel company) data
- ESPWG Travel survey in 2022 highlighted the following:
– Environmental impact of travel more important to more respondents post-pandemic
– Importance of travel for professional development, esp. for early career academics
– Importance of travel for fieldwork and field trips
– Training courses attended both online and in person, with a desire to continue to do both
– Most respondents stated that they wanted to travel less for work in the future
- Royal Geographical Society – Fieldwork principle 2: Sustainable fieldwork (rgs.org)
- Code of Conduct for Ethical Fieldwork – ORA – Oxford University Research Archive
- The difficulty of travelling by lower, more sustainable means given high workloads and lack of spare time.
- School of Medicine has set up a sustainability group, who are keen to set up a ‘best practice’ network with other medicine schools in Scotland. The Sustainability Lead for the School of Medicine is Prof Jonathan Issberner.
- Which kinds of positive changes can be made quickly?
Further relevant information
- Net Zero on Campus: From Principles to Action (unsdsn.org)
“The UN SDSN, the Climateworks Centre, and Monash University have joined their expertise and academic networks, from around the world, to develop a new guide to enable universities and colleges to accelerate the planning and implementation of net zero strategies, and act as living laboratories for testing solutions.
The EAUC’s Deputy CEO, Fiona Goodwin, is a contributor to the new guide. Access the guide and accompanying toolkit to learn more. This ties closely with the Race to Zero for Universities and Colleges campaign, which we deliver alongside UNEP and Second Nature – sign up here!”
- New EAUC-Scotland Resources to Support the Sector in Addressing Business Air Travel | EAUC
- Decarbonising conferences – Why and How? by The Oxford Flying Less podcast (spotify.com)
The STACEES team are grateful to all our speakers and to the following colleagues, who contributed towards the formative development of the series:
- Dr Lydia Cole, Lecturer, School of Geography and Sustainable Development
- Dr Louise Reid, Senior Lecturer, School of Geography and Sustainable Development
- Sarah Cutler, Senior Procurement Officer
- Ali Macleod, Transition University of St Andrews, Estates
- Keith Thomason, Sustainability Integration Manager, Sustainability and Waste Management Services, Estates