Climate change is one of the biggest challenges humanity has faced. Under the Paris Agreement we know that we need to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. We need to play our part in this.
University of Otago has committed to reaching Net Carbon Zero by 2030 by reducing our Greenhouse Gas emissions by more than half and then offsetting the emissions that we have not been able to eliminate.
Net Carbon Zero programme
This is an ambitious goal that will not be achieved easily. So, we have established a Net Carbon Zero Programme that will allow us to meet our targets in a way that befits a research-led university with an international reputation for excellence, and ensures we can maintain and improve upon this level of emissions beyond 2030.
You can read about where we’ve come from, where we are and where we need to go:
Some of our key actions to achieve our targets and tackle climate change are summarised below.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions reporting
Our climate action starts with measuring our greenhouse gas emissions. You can read our reports for 2020 and 2019 below:
- University of Otago Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report 2020 (PDF)
- University of Otago Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report 2019 (PDF)
In 2019, the University kicked off a project that aimed to halve emissions from University-funded air travel and provide a mechanism to offset remaining emissions. The COVID‑19 pandemic saw emissions reduce by more than 80 per cent, and the focus in now on supporting staff to continue to deliver high quality outcomes while keeping air travel emissions below half of pre-pandemic levels.
For more information about how and why to keep air travel emissions low, visit:
We are also establishing our first native forest regeneration project to support this work and will announce more details later in 2022.
We also account for air travel by students to get to their campus of study and home again at the end of the year. We will investigate ways to support students to minimise these emissions and look at offsetting options.
The Property Services’ Energy Management team has been successful in removing coal from the main heating system for the Dunedin campus and the last residential college, and is working on a range of energy efficiency initiatives. This video from 2018 gives a good overview of the journey we have been on.
The focus is on currently removing our last coal boiler (Invercargill campus) and eliminating the use of fossil fuels for energy by 2030.
Chefs and catering staff have been engaged in reducing emissions due to food purchased. Retail outlets have all introduced lower carbon menu options. Residential colleges have adopted Mindful Monday (plant-based meals one day per week), which we estimate reduces emissions due to food purchase by 11%. This project was short-listed in the Climate Action category of the 2021 Green Gown Award’s.
We’re working on connecting better data about our food purchases to our emissions calculations, and how to then share this with kitchen staff and diners.
The University, Dunedin City Council and Southern District Health Board have jointly employed a Workplace Travel Plan Coordinator to help promote sustainable and healthy commuting. Previous initiatives include the e-bike discount scheme and e-bike hub, and promoting the bee card bus pass to staff and students.
We are also working to decarbonise the University’s vehicle fleet.
We are working closely in partnership with Waste Management New Zealand to reduce the total waste to land fill (and reduce landfill emissions) as well as specifically focussing on reducing food waste in the residential colleges. Our waste reduction efforts to date were short-listed in the Leading the Circular Economy category of the 2021 Green Gown awards.
In 2022 we expect a digestor to be operational to reduce the amount of food waste that is sent to landfill. We’ll review the impact and see if we should expand or adapt this approach.
Got an opportunity to reduce emissions in your area? Want to integrate emissions data or our climate action into a course or piece of research? Whether you’re a student, member of staff, a supplier or part of the wider community, we’d love to hear from you.
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