Student Action: Promoting renewable energy at Cambridge University

In the first blog for RTCC’s Student Project, Daisy Haywood from Energise Cambridge explains how the group are putting pressure on their University to improve its record on the environment and make a move to renewables.

Around seventy students gathered in a snowy field and formed the shape of a giant wind turbine, which was photographed from the air. (© Energise Cambridge)

The University of Cambridge tops a number of league tables, but one which it may be less keen to boast about is for its carbon emissions.

Currently the fourth highest emitter of carbon dioxide of all UK higher education institutes, just below Manchester, Southampton and Imperial College, the University emitted 77,660 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2008/2009.

I am one of a number of Cambridge students who recently launched a campaign, called Energise Cambridge, seeking to persuade the University to increase its use of renewable energy and engage students on issues of climate change.

Energise Cambridge want to encourage their University to invest in renewables and push for greater engagement with staff and students on climate change (© Energise Cambridge)

We wrote a report which outlined our response to the University’s current environmental policy and our key recommendations for future action, which include: to commit to an ambitious reduction in carbon intensity; to recognise that serious action on climate change requires increased investment now; to conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis on renewable energy options; and to further student and staff awareness on such issues.

The report received endorsement from a number of professors at the University, as well being supported by the Cambridge University Student Union, the UK Youth Climate Coalition and Cambridge Hub.

Our messages in the report seemed to chime with the general student opinion too.

A survey of more than 180 students found that 41% of students believed that the University should have a higher responsibility to act to prevent climate change, compared to other sectors.

Despite this, 20% of students admitted to not knowing whether the University is doing enough to reduce its carbon emissions.

Eighty per cent of students would support the University switching to 100% green energy, even if it was more expensive.

To build on this support and raise awareness about these issues, we held a public rally during People & Planet’s Go Green Week – a national week of action for greener schools, colleges and universities.

Seventy students gathered in a snowy field and formed the shape of a giant wind turbine, which was photographed from the air. The image, along with a petition we are collecting signatures for, will send a striking message to the University that Cambridge students demand more ambition and leadership in response to the climate crisis.

VIDEO: Energise Cambridge hope the images of student gathered in a snowy field forming a giant wind turbine will send a strong message to the University…

Energise Cambridge is a long term campaign that seeks to collaborate and work effectively with the University and its students. Our next steps include meeting the Vice Chancellor, engaging more University staff with our report, and encouraging more students to take action in their own lives to become more sustainable, as well as involving them in a wider student movement for environmental change.

For more on RTCC’s Student Project, take a look at our introductory blog.

If you want to get involved contact Tierney on [email protected] or @rtcc_tierney or call the office on 020-7340-2865 (UK).

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