University of Melbourne on track to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025

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Photo credit: Joe Vittorio Photography

The University of Melbourne is on track to meet its stated goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025. For the second consecutive year, the University achieved zero net emissions from electricity, and implemented a range of initiatives to further improve the sustainability of its campus-based operations.

Solar panels have been installed across 44 buildings, generating an equivalent amount of clean energy to power 650 houses for a year, and preventing around 3000 tonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere.

The University also invested $6 million in upgrades to lighting, ventilation, heating and cooling systems – saving enough electricity to power 820 homes for a year – and retrofitted disused spaces to create new e-bike and e-scooter charging stations.

The figures are in the University’s 2022 Sustainability Report which outlines the progress being made towards achieving the University’s institutional targets of carbon neutrality by 2025 and climate positive status by 2030.

The report details the University’s annual operational environmental performance and highlights the University’s impact in sustainability and climate action through its core teaching and learning and research activities.

University of Melbourne Chief Operating Officer and Vice-President (Administration & Finance) Mr Paul Axup said that universities are uniquely positioned to demonstrate innovative solutions to address major problems like climate change.

“By embedding sustainability principles across the full breadth of our operations, the University’s campuses act as testing grounds where we can pilot innovative solutions and provide an example that others may follow,” he said.

“For example, in 2022 we shared learnings from our-long running waste reduction initiative, the Choose to Reuse plate program, with other universities and organisations who are now implementing similar programs. Choose to Reuse is a reuseable crockery service for food retailers at the University and is the only program of its scale in Australia. It's a practical example of how we’re tackling waste on campus.”

The University has also taken an important step in assessing the full impact of its activities on the environment by including an expanded range of scope 3 emissions in its annual calculation of net carbon emissions. Scope 3 emissions are indirect greenhouse gas emissions that are emitted by assets not owned or controlled by the University. The inclusion of the expanded range of Scope 3 emissions explains why the University’s net carbon emissions were 164, 904 tCO2-e in 2022, compared to 37,511 in 2021.

“The University of Melbourne is one of the first higher education institutions in Australia to publish comprehensive data on our emissions from these activities, enabling us to identify key areas where we can further reduce our carbon emissions as we advance towards our goal of carbon neutrality,” Mr Axup said.

In its major construction projects, the University has adopted sustainable, circular economy principles by recycling materials that would otherwise end up in landfill. This included recovering and repurposing 84 per cent of 25,627 tonnes of materials including concrete and steel from the Fishermans Bend site, and 96 per cent of 3520 tonnes of materials from the Student Precinct development at Parkville campus.

Mr Axup said that while implementing sustainable measures across campus operations was critical, the University recognises the vital role that education plays in addressing global sustainability and climate challenges.

“Universities have a responsibility to equip their students with the knowledge and skills to lead in a more sustainable society through their careers and in their communities,” he said.

In 2022, the University added to its broad range of sustainability-related subjects and courses with launch of four new subjects in the Faculties of Arts, Business and Economics, Science, and Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.

The 2022 report is the first to report against the University’s Sustainability Plan 2030. The full report is available here.