Net zero: going from ambition to action

We are sharing our plan to deliver a net zero estate. Several major new projects, backed by a £153 million investment, mark the latest developments in our work to achieve net zero emissions by 2030.

A view across the Sustainable Garden to the Biological Sciences Building on a sunny day

As part of the University’s ambitious Climate Plan, agreed in 2021, Leeds has committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. With the rapid escalation of the climate crisis, taking action is necessary and urgent.

Reaching net zero is one of the seven key principles on which the plan is based and work is constantly ongoing to make the changes needed to meet our sector-leading commitment and tackle this huge global challenge.

At the University, we now have our Net Zero Delivery Plan, which will guide the development of our physical environment, including all parts of our campus, so we can meet our goals. An investment of £152.8 million has been earmarked to deliver the programme of work over the decade. 

On 4 December, colleagues can join Ann Allen, Director of Campus Innovation and Development, and a panel of experts – including the University’s Head of Net Zero James Dixon-Gough – for a hybrid event sharing the latest progress in our work towards net zero. There will also be the opportunity to look at the Net Zero Delivery Plan and ask questions.

Internationally, Leeds is at the forefront of climate research and experts from the University are contributing to the important discussions happening next week at COP28, the United Nations climate change conference.

A message from the interim Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Hai-Sui Yu. November 2023

Professor Hai-Sui Yu, Interim Vice-Chancellor and President, said: “To be a credible champion for the climate, we must ‘walk the walk’. We’ve adopted a tough, internationally recognised definition of net zero, and our targets are based on the science. The scale of the challenge is huge – but we are ambitious and focused.

“We will make the changes we need to reduce emissions. We will find new and diverse ways to solve challenges. We will inspire those around us to act. And we will lead the way to a greener, fairer future.”

Building on solid foundations for a sustainable future

The aims of reaching net zero emissions by 2030, and no direct carbon emissions by 2050, are laid out in the University’s recently published Pathway to Net Zero.

Work to achieve these goals has been ongoing, modelling the most effective and efficient means of reducing our organisational emissions to science-based targets.

Plans to make these goals a reality have now been approved by the University Council. The investments which are happening as part of our plan for a net zero estate will help the University use less energy to heat and power our buildings and processes, whist making sure the energy we do use is from renewable sources.

Four projects are illustrated and accompanied with the headings 'Invest in generating renewable energy’ ‘Upgrade the Worsley Building’, ‘Build a new energy centre for the engineering cluster’ and 'Increase the electricity supply to campus'.

Starting now, enabling works can be begun and designs can be finalised for projects which will help us effectively reduce our emissions. The main building work will begin from 2025.

The first projects to be taken forward include:

  • Investing in new renewable energy generation to provide our grid electricity requirements across campus. The first phase of this will match our current grid electricity usage, cutting emissions by nearly 2,000 tonnes CO2e per year.
  • Upgrading the Worsley Building, one of the highest energy consuming buildings on campus, by installing solar panels and a heat recovery ventilation system to reduce energy use associated with heat loss, reducing emissions by more than 1,000 tonnes CO2e per year.
  • Developing a new localised energy centre for the engineering cluster of buildings, reducing emissions by emissions by nearly 1,000 tonnes CO2e per year. 
  • Securing an increased electrical supply to campus from Northern Powergrid that will enable us to address the decarbonisation of our heating network.
Ann Allen standing in Nexus

These developments and other elements of the Net Zero Delivery Plan will be featured at the event on 4 December.

Ann Allen, Director of Campus Innovation and Development, said: “Our panel discussion will be an opportunity to hear from those in the University leading some of the work on net zero by 2030. We'll be covering some of the topics that we think are important, share what we are doing but also want to hear from you about what we are doing. I really hope you can find the time to join us and share your thoughts.”

Collaboration and opportunity

In tandem with the work on the University estate, a pot of £1 million in seed funding has also been created to further support Living Lab research projects. Living Lab research will play an important role in the process of finding the best way to reach net zero.

There will also be work undertaken to expand the Sustainable Labs programme – so that vital research taking place in our laboratories uses fewer resources and less energy itself.

All these efforts will require collective effort and support from all our staff, students, and external stakeholders. Look out for opportunities to get involved with helping us meet our climate targets.

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