Yesterday, for the second year in a row, it was announced that Swansea University has failed to meet the standards of the People and Planet Green League. The news is a blow those aiming for an eco-friendly University here in Swansea. Rob Abrams, Environment and Ethics Officer-elect, yesterday wrote a blog post on the SUSU Exec Blog, and was kind enough to allow The Siren to reprint it here. If you want to comment on the original post, just click here.

by Rob Abrams (Environment and Ethics Officer-elect)

[Yesterday it was announced] that, for the second year in a row Swansea University has failed to meet the standards of the People and Planet Green League. Judging the performance of a university in areas such as ‘environmental policy’, ‘ethical investment’, ‘carbon management’, and ‘staff and student engagement’ among others, the league, run annually since 2007, is meant to highlight the ways in which universities can act to achieve the goal of a more ecologically-sound campus. The fact that Swansea University has yet again been awarded a ‘fail’ should be prompting a fair amount of criticism, as well as concern.

Swansea University’s performance in the League has not always been so poor. In 2009, we were awarded a lower-second award (with a ranking of 65th) before our ranking dropped off to 116th the following year. There are some who might be tempted into pointing towards changes in the way universities are scored by the award scheme as a justification of Swansea’s fall in the ratings. Indeed, between 2009 and 2010, People and Planet changed the scoring so as to award fewer points for areas such as ‘publically available Environmental policy’ and ‘Environmental Management Staff’. Such a justification would not be in tune with reality. A direct response from People and Planet regarding the change in the scoring has placed emphasis on the development of practise throughout the sector; the reduced number of points available for some of the older criteria for the award scheme “provide[s] more weighting to other management and performance indicators.” It is generally accepted that most universities should already have adequate provisions in regards to areas such as ‘environmental policy’. The Green league compiled in 2009 revealed that 67% of universities now have at least one full-time Environmental Manager, and acknowledged that such incentives as sector-wide carbon-reduction targets should mean a reallocation of points in the scoring process so as to place a fresh focus on new innovations.

There is a wider concern for the entire higher education system. Today, it has been announced that a league table published by the Guardian has revealed an increase over the last five years in carbon emissions at most British universities; “People & Planet said the results were “incredibly worrying” and suggested that, unless there is a rapid turnaround, the sector would not achieve its commitment to cut emissions by 43% by 2020.” In light of such negative developments, campus-level action is becoming an ever increasing necessity; the effectiveness of which will undoubtedly be reflected in future Green League rankings.

This Thursday, some notable motions will be put forward to the Student General Meeting (SGM). One, put forward by Zahid Raja regarding ‘toxic fuels and ethical banking’ seeks to divert funding that goes towards fossil fuels in the direction of renewable energy. Acknowledging that loans to institutions that run fossil fuel projects ensure future carbon emissions, the motion seeks to support those students who wish to “run their own campaigns”, in the best interests of raising awareness. Another motion, put forward by current Environment and Ethics Executive Stephen Marshall, seeks to tackle the Student Union’s policy on elected officials travelling less than 400 miles by air. These issues, if tackled now, will set us all in a good position for next year’s campaigns. Both motions present to the student body a unique opportunity to change the environmental impact and ethical priorities of Swansea University.