Wellington's University strengthens its commitment to sustainable leadership

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington is proud to sign up to ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets as part of the Climate Leaders Coalition.

The University is one of 18 organisations that have agreed to pursue efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The latest pledge, announced by the coalition today, builds on a 2017 statement to keep warming below 2 degrees, which the University also signed.

In new measures unveiled today, existing signatories can sign up to a ‘higher ambition’ statement, if they can show their commitment to achieving key climate change mitigation measures. These include: measuring their greenhouse gas footprint and having the data independently verified; adopting substantial emission reduction targets so the organisation contributes to New Zealand being carbon neutral by 2050; and supporting staff and suppliers to reduce their emissions.

“As a values-based University with academic expertise in climate science and climate solutions, we have a moral imperative to take strong climate action,” says Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford.

He says the University reduced its carbon emission by 15 percent between 2007 and 2017, despite increasing student and staff numbers. The University pledged to reach a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

“We are two years into our plan and our emissions are already down a further 6.9 percent, with an even bigger drop this year because of COVID-19 impacts.”

University director of sustainability Andrew Wilks says the next stage will focus on ensuring flexible working practices and alternatives to air travel, which have been accelerated through the pandemic, become normal practice. “We will also focus on using carbon reduction initiatives as research and learning opportunities, both within the University and with our community partners.”

He says the University has set targets that reflect the urgency of what science is saying about climate change, with input from some of the world’s leading climate change scientists based at the University.

One is Professor James Renwick, a current commissioner for the New Zealand Climate Change Commission. Professor Renwick says, “The University’s emissions reduction targets are consistent with keeping warming to less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels. In fact if all organisations and all nations could act as quickly as the University we could halt global warming at no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.”