Universities should be leading the way in transitioning to more sustainable practices. When we are using our research to advocate for greater sustainability, it is critical that we do all we can to ensure that the research itself is undertaken in a sustainable manner.
The University of York has made a number of commitments to enhance its sustainability including a commitment to net zero by 2030. However, achieving this requires a step change in how we do things, including how we conduct research. The necessary transition raises challenging questions for the research community.
Reducing the carbon emissions of our research activities is clearly a priority, but it may also be necessary to use carbon offsetting if we are to achieve net zero, at least in the short term.
Wellcome has recently introduced a requirement for recipients of its research funding to minimise travel, choose travel with low carbon impact, and where practical, offset the carbon emissions of journeys they do make. It requires recipients of its funding to have a carbon offsetting policy in place. Other funders are likely to follow suit. The University of York now has a carbon offsetting policy, but there is an opportunity (perhaps a responsibility) for us as an institution to go further.
Mark Clough, Sustainability Manager at the University of York, will give a presentation on the University's Carbon Offsetting Policy. We will then consider the policy, and ask:
- Does the current policy go far enough?
- What role should offsetting play in reducing the carbon emissions from our research?
- How do we select offset providers?
- Should we set carbon limits on our research?
- Do we have to compromise institutional research ambitions in order to achieve net zero?
- Do we need to reassess our established models of research practice?
- How should we position ourselves as a York community of environmental sustainability researchers with respect to offsetting?