University of the Arts London (UK) Launching our Climate Action Plan and committing to systemic change

University of the Arts London (UAL) has published its Climate Action Plan. It brings together various strands of climate-oriented action at UAL into a plan for systemic change.

We believe that culture and creative practice play a central role in facing climate emergency and, as one of the world’s leading creative institutions, can play a vital role in achieving climate justice. The action plan is part of realising our ambitions around becoming a university of social purpose. By directing what we do to make the maximum contribution to the long-term wellbeing of all humans and the planet.

A commitment to climate justice at UAL requires cultural, operational, strategic and academic change at every level of the University. The plan has 4 intersecting strands of action:

  • We will change the way we teach.
    So that our students and graduates have the abilities and agency to imagine and create a better world.
  • We will change the way we research and collaborate with industry and society. To catalyse change through our knowledge and creative insight.
  • We will change the way we operate.
    To decarbonise within a just share of the global carbon budget.
  • We will change the way we work together. To ecologically reimagine our university from the inside out and use our voice to advocate for change.

This version articulates the broader context of these actions, through case studies and opinion pieces. We present the plan as a work in progress. It sets out principles, commitments and goals which the University has committed to in the short and long term. This includes our commitment to achieve net zero by 2030 across scope 1 and 2 emissions and net zero total emissions by 2040. As well as our commitment to embed climate, social and racial justice principles into all our courses by 2025.

This means ecologically rethinking the University and co-creating a climate justice movement through which all students and staff can take action. It has always been the task of creative people to negotiate uncertainty and imagine new possibilities. These capabilities are needed at the heart of any response to climate and biodiversity breakdown. It is our role to develop these transformative capabilities to create a better future.

The wellbeing of our planet is of unparalleled importance to humanity’s future. And yet it is under threat. All universities –like all organisations, and all individuals – have a duty to respond: to put themselves on the side of solutions instead of continuing harm. 

— Polly Mackenzie, UAL Chief Social Purpose Officer

We need to explore ways of thinking, knowing and acting that are based on a recognition that all phenomena are interdependent. These ways of thinking expand beyond the technical and instrumental. To imagine and realise another story of being human in a more than human world. 

— Professor Dilys Williams, a Founding Chair of the Climate and Environment Action Group (CEAG) and Director Centre for Sustainable Fashion

The plan was co-authored by UAL’s Climate and Environment Action Group which was formed to catalyse climate and environmental action at UAL. The self-forming group amalgamated the work of existing groups and committees over the last twenty years and was amplified during a series Climate Assemblies held across the university in Autumn 2019. CEAG members are representative of UAL’s communities and departments. Members include students, graduates, and staff from teaching, operations, research, libraries and workshops. The group represents all six UAL colleges and the wide range of the creative disciplines we teach.