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Higher Education no longer needs to protect the environment

Former Director of Friends of the Earth argues that with central funding dwindling, universities have little incentive to hit environmental targets
29 September 2015

Environmentalist, writer and former Director of Friends of the Earth in Britain Jonathon Porritt CBE, will open a debate into whether sustainability in Higher Education still has a purpose.

An outspoken political campaigner who has been at the vanguard of environmental and sustainability issues since the 1970’s, Jonathon Porritt will open discussions held at London South Bank University (LSBU) exploring what incentive is driving sustainability initiatives in Higher Education with funding now coming from students, rather than from government.

English universities are falling further behind in their efforts to meet their own carbon goals and sector-wide targets set by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

HEFCE - which is responsible for the distribution of funding to universities higher education providers in England – set the Higher Education sector a target to deliver a 43 per cent reduction on 2005 emissions levels. However new figures indicate that institutions will achieve only a 12 per cent reduction by 2020, half of what was projected the previous year.

Mr Porritt will argue that significant commercial growth in the sector, along with reduced carbon reduction policy drivers and funding from the government means sustainability at universities is under threat.

Professor Pat Bailey, LSBU Deputy Vice-Chancellor and a career-long advocate of sustainability and environmental change in Higher Education, said: “The University sector is standing at a crossroads with regard to our sustainability commitments, and to have such an eminent environmentalist as Jonathon Porritt explain the ramifications of the path we take next promises to be an enlightening and potentially controversial evening of discussion.”