Interim Carbon Management Plan

Updated on 31 October 2022

Incorporating ‘Net Zero Challenge for Universities and Colleges’ Commitments

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1 - Overarching Purpose and Goals

In 2010 the University of Dundee published a Carbon Management Plan, which set out our aspiration to achieve a carbon reduction target of 4% per annum. Baseline figures in the plan were revised in 2015. Since 2015, the University has achieved a 42% reduction in its carbon emissions and is therefore rightly proud of its contributions to date to the collective need to tackle the climate emergency.

As the world’s responsibilities for the climate grow every more urgent, it is right that the University now take time to reflect on its own responsibilities and commitments to reducing its impact on climate change. Our Strategy for 2022/27 puts climate action and net zero, as well as the social and health aspects of climate change, at the heart of our purpose as an institution. We are partnering with a wide range of institutions, both locally and internationally, to take action. Amongst these partners are Dundee City Council and the internationally renowned Eden Project.

Since our original plan, the Scottish Government has developed its own aspirations for Scotland and set out clearer, mandatory targets that organisations must achieve. The University of Dundee, like many others, has also become a signatory to the Net Zero Challenge for Universities and Colleges (NZC). By joining this global initiative, the University is making a public statement about its commitment to engage in active change to ensure we are in a position to reduce our own carbon footprint and therefore contribute to a reduction in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As a facet of our pledge, we accept our role to continue to encourage and persuade others to follow our lead. This interim plan acts as a statement of intent to build on our progress to date and as a result develop explicit and specific plans to reach net zero as part of our pledge to the NZC.

It is our high-level ambition, therefore, to meet the following targets:

  • To reach Net Zero on greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2045 to help attempts to limit global warming as part of a just transition;
  • The University of Dundee is committed to a 75% reduction of GHG emissions by 2035 compared to 2015 levels in line with Scottish Government Targets for the public sector

These targets represent our minimum pledge towards a net zero position. In setting out these goals, we will strive to prioritise the reduction of real-world GHG emissions and limit any residual emissions only to those that it is not possible to eliminate. We will do what we can to compensate for any residual GHG emissions through the use of valid and credible offset credits and sinks. Where we must use such offsets, however, we aim to make use of sustainable local offsets, in recognition that this will support the local economy and encourage opportunities for students to enter the workforce in green jobs. As technology and research develops, we will review and enhance our approach to continuously work towards achieving a full net zero status, removing all residual emissions in time. Ultimately, we wish to achieve a net negative position within this century.

Reducing carbon emissions is not just about our commitment to the environment. We expect that the processes we use to identify carbon or GHG emissions reductions will also help us to realise financial savings as a result of improved efficiency for our buildings and services, in procurement and transport. The actions outlined in this interim plan contribute to overarching aims to achieve efficiency in consumption and provide value for money. We expect such reductions in consumption to contribute both to our overall financial and environmental sustainability

As an educational institution we have a responsibility to make a positive impact on the world through our Charter mission to ‘transform lives through the creation, sharing and application of knowledge’. To this end, we have developed a University Strategy which, amongst other things, will embed in the community an awareness and understanding of the climate emergency and our individual responsibilities for tackling carbon emissions. To this end, and building on our achievements, we are continuing to develop learning and teaching programmes that have as their focus climate and net zero and we carry out significant research that is aligned to the Net Zero Challenge and the wider dimensions of climate change.

We believe we can do even more. We have appointed external consultants to undertake a full review of all aspects of our business, with the intention to set out clear new baselines for our emissions and to better understand our Scope 3 emissions. By doing so, we expect to be able to set improved targets to address the full impact of our activities, thus enabling us to make effective and lasting change and, moreover, set an example for others.

We expect reductions to be achieved from a range of projects including energy and fleet management, and awareness raising initiatives across capital investment projects, procurement and policy revision to encourage behavioural change in our stakeholders. The University of Dundee has committed capital funding of at least £40M (approved by its governing body, the Court) for carbon management capital projects over the next 8 years. The University continues to explore other funding opportunities for strategic investment to support net zero ambitions, whether through grants or additional investment.

It is our clear expectation that getting the strategy right will support our aspiration to make economic savings on energy use and recycling. A range of staff and stakeholders from across the University including colleagues with dedicated roles in carbon management, sustainability and environmental management will take the lead in rolling out the plan under the oversight of a Carbon Management Board (CMB), chaired by the Principal & Vice-Chancellor, Professor Iain Gillespie. A Carbon Action Planning Group (CAPG) has devolved responsibility from the CMB for the design and management of initiatives that positively feed into and will evolve this plan.

The University of Dundee has a long and successful track record in using local champions to support new initiatives, and we anticipate doing so again to cascade communication and awareness-raising. The University also recognises and welcomes the increased enthusiasm from across the community in supporting our carbon management aims.

The University regards this interim plan as a ‘live’ and dynamic document, and we expect it to be subject to continual review and enhancement. This plan (and its successor detailed plan) will be formally reviewed on an annual basis following publication of our annual statutory carbon returns. This process will be overseen by the CMB.

2 - Background to the Organisation

The University of Dundee is a research intensive university in Dundee, Scotland. The City Campus of the university is located in Dundee's West End, which contains many of the university's teaching and research facilities. The University has additional facilities at Ninewells Hospital, specifically the School of Medicine, and in Kirkcaldy, Fife, where part of the School of Health Sciences is located. There are additional properties and sites within Dundee including the Riverside Playing Fields, Incubator and Centre for Targeted Protein Degradation at the Technopole site, and the University of Dundee Botanic Garden.

The annual income of the institution for the year ended 31 July 2022 was £292m of which £96m was from tuition fees and £72m was from research grants and contracts. Annual expenditure was £294m. There are over 17,000 campus-based students matriculated at the university and 3,000 staff.

For the purposes of net zero calculations, and for the sake of clarity, the University only includes those activities and properties where the University has a material ability to control operational decision-making. Properties that are controlled by others at Ninewells and Kirkcaldy, therefore, are not included; respectively these are controlled by NHS Tayside and NHS Fife. The estate that is included comprises approximately 90 buildings which range in age from the nineteenth century to the present day. A large proportion of them are situated within a conservation area, and many are individually listed.

3 - Performance to Date

The University has been consistently implementing energy saving measures since our initial plan was published in 2010. Alongside our formal external reporting obligations (Public Sector Report on Compliance with Climate Change Duties), we have increased our commitment by becoming a signatory to the NZC, and our University Strategy includes focus on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). There is a reasonably well-established process for measuring and monitoring carbon emissions as well as a list of projects we hope will achieve carbon savings under Scopes 1 and 2. Whilst data has been gathered for Scope 3, this is currently at a more basic level, and the work of the external contractors mentioned above will provide the means to enhance this data and enable clearer targets across all 3 scopes for the future.

The key issues facing the University, in common with other organisations, comprise changes to the built environment, behaviours of our community members (students/staff/visitors, etc), and growing equipment and facilities needs which will lead to increased total consumption and thus have significant impact on future carbon emissions. The University Executive Group and the University’s governing body, the Court, now require all building projects, whether revenue or capital, to consider net zero implications and specifically identify improvements that will assist in the NZC rather than add to the burden of emissions.

By 2015, the carbon footprint baseline for future reductions under the previous plan were calculated as 33,471 tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent). The 2015 footprint included emissions from: electricity, gas and oil consumption; transport (fleet and business, including air travel); waste to landfill, and water consumption.

Table 1 below sets out the reductions achieved since the 2015 rebasing, including all 3 scopes. As mentioned above, the scope 3 figures are currently undergoing fundamental review, as mentioned above, and we expect this review to provide a complete rebasing for scope 3, with the inevitable consequence that these emissions figures will greatly increase, reflecting actual emissions across all relevant scope 3 elements.

Reference year


Scope 1

% Improvement
yr on yr

Scope 2

% Improvement
yr on yr

Scope 3

% Improvement
yr on yr


% Improvement
yr on yr











Year 1










Year 2










Year 3










Year 4










Year 5










Year 6




















Baseline to Date










Table 1: Carbon emissions reduction since 2015.

The table above shows positive performance overall. In 2020/21 scope 2 emissions rose temporarily as we took gas CHP engines off-line for a replacement project, requiring us to import more inefficient electricity and increasing our carbon. We have now completed the installation of a new and more efficient engine to replace two previous older models and expect this category to be more positive moving forwards.

In the face of increased national and international focus on carbon reduction targets, and in particular Scottish and UK national targets, the University’s performance to date means we are in a good position to respond to those targets in the future and meet our stated overarching aims, set out in section 1 above.

4 - Context and Drivers for Carbon Management

The University faces a complex set of drivers which provide the context for carbon management. The following represent the key carbon drivers for the University of Dundee:

  • Scottish Government targets – These require us to be net zero by 2045, in advance of the UK target for 2050.
  • UK & European targets – In April 2022, the UK increased its net zero target for 2035 to 75% reductions against baseline emissions. This is now the highest in Europe.
  • The University’s own strategic aims – The University of Dundee has set KPIs for Net Zero within its newly launched Strategy for 2022-2027 in line with the Scottish Government targets and has mandated requirements for capital projects (e.g. consideration of building standards like Passivhaus or EnerPHit).
  • Net Zero Challenge for Universities and Colleges (NZC) – The University became a signatory in 2021. This challenge requires engagement with broader societal issues connected to emissions reduction and expects signatories to provide sector leadership.
  • Rising energy costs – The University has a plan to tackle this to provide greater security, but it will take time to implement and may require additional government support.
  • The principle that investments in carbon reduction are generally associated with commensurate reductions in future expenditure – This is a qualification that is being required more frequently by grant funders such as UKRI and other similar large funders.
  • The need to eliminate waste and increase efficiency – Both internal and external forces are pushing these kinds of consideration for all types of project.
  • The depletion of the world’s finite resources – The University has declared a climate emergency and is proactively involved in a large number of research initiatives to help develop solutions.
  • Reputational Benefit – The University continues to strive to become an exemplar to others in its response to climate change. Failure in its stated aims, as set out in its institutional strategy is likely to have a negative impact on its reputation.
  • Improved engagement – Working with partners and stakeholders within the local community brings with it increased opportunities for collaborative effort to tackle changes, deepening relationships and increasing impact.

5 - Expected or Planned Changes to Business

Over the next 5 years, the University will see a number of changes to its estate and working practices which will have an effect on its carbon emissions. These include partial refurbishment or complete creation of a number of buildings and the implementation of a number of significant investment and policy changes that seek to reduce carbon impact. For example, the following projects are in the current Estate Strategy and will have a material impact on the measurement of carbon:

  • The Energy Infrastructure Strategy: This project looks at the energy generation and consumption on the City Campus in Dundee. We will be investing in renewable energy sources as a transition towards net zero targets and replacing all our existing district heating network.
  • Expansion in innovation space: A new Life Sciences Innovation Hub, sited on the Dundee Technopole, is being created through the Tay Cities Deal that will provide essential commercial laboratory space for emerging high growth life sciences companies. New Medtech research and innovation space is also being facilitated by refurbishment of a building on our Ninewells Campus and expansion of our Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification.
  • The Centre of Targeted Protein Degradation: The Centre for Targeted Protein Degradation is expected to open in January 2023, following the extensive refurbishment of an existing laboratory building. With established international corporate partners, the Centre will be fully equipped to ensure world-class discoveries in the field of targeted protein degradation are translated into patient benefit.

In addition, there are a number of local policies which will impact our carbon footprint. Examples include:

  • Hybrid Working Policy: Recognising the impact of the COVID pandemic, the University has adopted a policy which permits home working for many professional services staff. Following a successful pilot in 2021/22, the policy was fully implemented in May 2022. The full impact will be monitored and reviewed into September 2023.
  • Net Zero within Business Plans: The Court’s Finance and Policy Committee has mandated that all major capital investment over £5m must include positive contributions towards net zero targets which must be quantified from the outset, including the identification of whole life costings and financial savings. Similar approaches are being explored for lower levels of investment.
  • Strategic Planning Net Zero targets: As part of the annual cycle of operational planning for each business unit within the University, each School or Directorate is required to submit clear plans on a 5-year horizon. From November 2022 this will include commentary on strategies to positively impact net zero, with the future intent being that the University will set targets for each unit from 2024 onwards.

6 - Carbon Management Projects (Recent and Ongoing) – Evidence of Impact

The following examples give a broad sense of the kinds of initiative that have been progressed since 2015, some of which are still ongoing. These projects will have contributed to the reductions set out in Table 1 above.

  • Investment in building fabric to improve heat retention – We have targeted capital investment in poorly performing buildings where heat losses are significant. For example
    • Matthew Building – glazing and roof replacements
    • Fulton Building - upgrade to all external walls
    • Tower Building complete reclad and reglazing to improve thermal insulation.
  • Commissioning a pilot project to explore Ground Source Heat Pumps – The new build Life Sciences Innovation Hub, mentioned above, will be completed in 2024 with a new ground source heat pump.
  • New CHP engines – Whilst planning to move away from a reliance on gas, we have installed new and more efficient CHP engines. As technology allows, these will also be capable of running on hydrogen, a future sustainable energy source.
  • 1-3 Perth Road – Net Zero principles will take centre stage in the refurbishment of this building. This project will enable us to consider and understand the opportunities and constraints for carbon reduction within a listed building, which we will be able to apply to other parts of the estate.
  • Passive InfraRed (PIR) lighting controls & LED installation – Over the last five years we have upgraded lighting in our buildings on the City Campus. PIRs are helping us to manage energy demand and need more effectively.
  • Electric Fleet – Almost all our fleet has been switched to electrical vehicles. Larger utility vehicles are hybrid wherever possible. We are exploring the possibility of electric tractors, although their cost at the moment is proving prohibitive.
  • Building opening times – We have reduced building access where we can, and this is helping to cut our emissions at times when there are low staffing levels.
  • Parking Strategy / Salary sacrifice – We have introduced a more robust parking strategy that supports staff who need to drive to work, in particular providing electric vehicle charging points. More recently we have supported the introduction of a salary sacrifice scheme to help staff buy electric vehicles.
  • WarpIt/Free Shop – We have a long history seeking to reuse and recycle goods at our university. Every year students leave the behind a range of belongings in their halls of residence. This is gathered up and events are held throughout the year to give away as much of this as possible. The Free Shop also provides a place where staff and students can browse to get replacement products from chargers to clothes for nothing. We also run a similar strategy for furniture and working with our project teams we seek to redistribute furniture to new locations wherever we can.
  • Signage Strategy – In 2021 we approved a new campus wide signage strategy that is being rolled out across all three sites. The external signage in particular uses the principles of the circular economy as we are using stone from demolitions at other projects across Dundee as part of our new designs.

7 - Investment

In committing to carbon savings projects required to ensure we can meet our mandatory targets, the University of Dundee recognises the need to provide investment from its own resources alongside those it is able to secure from external sources. Currently £30m of capital has been allocated to support the Energy Infrastructure Strategy initiative, with additional resources in existing budgets earmarked to help with ongoing building fabric improvement. New capital investment projects – whether for new build or refurbishments – also include specific net zero targets as part of their planning.

When the full carbon data gathering exercise is complete in December 2022, we will be in a position to identify discrete projects for investment. Both the University Executive Group and Court are clear about the need and importance of meeting net zero targets, so once the data is clear, they will each play their role in identifying and prioritising projects for investment within the limits of the planning horizon.

It is anticipated that capital funding will at least be maintained at current levels into the future in order to support achievement of our net zero targets. Opportunities will, of course, be taken as they arise to maximise any other funding streams from the Scottish Government or elsewhere.

8 - Target Setting

Whilst our performance to date, as set out in Table 1 above, has shown year-on-year incremental improvements to our carbon emissions, it is now clear that the original aim of 4% p.a. reductions will not see us meet our net zero aims nor our statutory obligations. The acceleration of action required means we need to take stock of our current position and rebalance priorities to meet revised national targets and our commitments to NZC.

This interim plan is therefore not able to quantify any revised targets now. The work to clarify as definitively as possible our carbon data, alluded to above, will facilitate a more reliable reassessment of our position and subsequently lead to targets which are meaningful, impactful, achievable and able to be embedded in future planning decisions and stand as an exemplar to others.

9 - Oversight and Delivery of the Plan

In order to ensure that there is effective and ongoing ownership of this and subsequent plans, the University recognises the importance of ensuring a clearly defined governance structure. The University will continue to adopt the structure set out below in Figure 1 to provide management accountability.



Figure 1: Governance Structure with workstreams (in green)


In 2021, the University established a Carbon Management Board (CMB). With leadership from the University Executive Group (UEG), it has been able to lead, support and guide ongoing work to ensure concerted progress. This became even more important once the University became a signatory to NZC and the Scottish net zero targets became clear.

To support the work of the CMB and ensure that projects are implemented in line with the University Strategy, a Carbon Action Planning Group (CAPG), chaired by a Vice-Principal, was established. The CMB, through the UEG, provides assurance on progress to the University Court, which itself is responsible for ensuring that the University is appropriately governed and that it meets it statutory obligations.

Within the CAPG, there are 8 workstreams as set out in Figure 1 above. Each of these has a dedicated Workstream Lead who is responsible for driving forwards the objectives for each area, and each lead must report back monthly to the CAPG on progress.

Much of the action currently being undertaken represents ‘enabling’ projects which, while not directly leading to carbon savings, will facilitate subsequent action that will led to reductions. One of the major enabling actions has been to appoint an external consultant to undertake a carbon audit of all our current activities (mentioned variously above). Noting that the measurement of our scope 3 activities has so far not incorporated our full impact, we are actively seeking a deeper understanding of this area to help us identify meaningful and lasting change.

Carbon savings will be achieved through a range of projects, which will be developed following the outcomes of the external review which is expected to be complete by December 2022. This will augment the approach that we are taking with scope 1 and 2 emissions, covering energy, vehicle fuel, water and the generation of waste. We are in the process of appointing a Carbon Strategy & Data Manager (CS&D Manager) who will be responsible for pulling together the strands of the CAPG Workstreams and driving change within the University Community.

Alongside workstream leads and the chair of the CAPG, the CS&D Manager will work towards developing and implementing an internal network of champions and key contacts as a means to create greater awareness of climate, carbon and net zero issues across the University, both amongst staff and students, and working closely with the Students’ Association and existing internal staff networks.

10 - Identified Areas of Focus for Workstreams

The current areas of focus for each of the workstreams identified above are set out below. These workstreams are overseen by the CAPG.

Procurement & Supply Chain

It is estimated that 60% to 70% of an organisation's carbon emissions are classified as Scope 3, with the majority of this originating from Procurement activities (purchase of goods and services) and the related emissions from the supplier’s supply chains. However, unlike the emissions associated with Scopes 1 and 2, the methodology for measuring, recording and reporting Scope 3 emissions has yet to be fully developed and published by the Scottish Government or any sustainability-related NGOs.

The Procurement and Supply Chain group will focus on instigating individual projects to reduce carbon emissions from specific categories of spend. These projects will be based on the Scottish Government’s PIACC (Primary Impact Area for Climate Change) guides which focus on practical and policy-based initiatives to reduce carbon emissions in the relevant category of spend. PIACC guides have been published for the following categories of spend: Furniture, Laboratory, Travel, Food and ICT. Projects have already commenced for the Food and ICT categories.

Sustainable Travel

The focus of this workstream is on exploring initiatives to encourage and promote staff and students to reduce single person journey and promote sustainable travel. Core focus is on facilitating and making attractive low/no-carbon transport options (e.g. cycling). Managing the University fleet is also part of the work of this workstream, with the aim of increasing low carbon vehicles from its current 75%.

Investment & Financing

The priority of this group is to ensure our financial assets are invested sustainably, ethically and responsibly. The University has c£30m of endowment assets which are invested in alignment to our ethical investment policy. Whilst this ensures no investments in fossil fuels, the assets are now invested in a sustainable portfolio which ensures each and every investment has an explicit link to delivery of at least 1 UN sustainable development goal. Further work is ongoing in considering the sustainable investment of other financial assets (cash) and linking future long term debt finance to the University’s own carbon reduction ambitions.

Environmental Sustainability Task group

The role of this group is to ensure that the wider picture on environmental sustainability is kept in view as other groups work on their specific remits, ensuring that significant issues are not overlooked and that the focus on particular targets does not ignore gains that can be made in other areas. The group has been involved in drafting the new Sustainability Policy Statement for the University.

Carbon Smart Campus (Estate)

The focus of the group is to reduce the carbon impact of the Estate. The primary project is the Energy Infrastructure Strategy which aims to move the principal energy source for the City Campus from gas to sustainable energy resources. This has an approved initial £30m capital investment budget which will be supplemented by private investment through a revenue contract with a partner organisation. There are additional capital funds identified for building fabric upgrades to work in parallel with the shift to sustainable energy sources and improve the overall energy efficiency of our buildings.


The overall aim of the group is to ensure that all students have an opportunity to gain exposure to climate action and sustainability education, either as part of their course or as an extra-curricular activity. To this end we are developing a pre-matriculation module that introduces all new students to the ideas around climate action and sustainability as part of induction week. This will signpost them to a new pan-university module on the same topic which is aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The purpose of the module is to inform, but through active learning we intend to challenge student perceptions and invoke changes in behaviour around climate action in our student population.


There are two strands of activity under this workstream. The first is understanding the carbon/environmental impact of our research activities and developing meaningful and ambitious decarbonisation targets in pursuit of net zero, noting that UKRI and Innovate UK have already declared their target date of net zero by 2040 (earlier than the Scottish national target of 2045). Secondly, to advance the research base of the University in scientific and social research into climate change mitigation/adaptation measures seeking to arrest dangerous climate change and promote biodiversity interests consistent with delivery a just transition towards net zero (technically, governance and policy instruments reaching across of societal behaviours).


This workstream is considering the opportunities the main campus affords as a living laboratory and home for biodiversity. Germane to the concept is the prototype work being trialled at the University of Dundee Botanic Garden, which established Nature Based Solutions at the heart of an approach to realise the main campus as a wellbeing landscape, which is scalable, on the basis of evidence through action research and education for sustainability.

11 - Data Collection & Management

As noted above, the University of Dundee has commissioned an external specialist consultant team to carry out a Carbon Review of the current data available and to make an assessment with regards to our current carbon position under scopes 1, 2 and 3.

This includes monitoring all energy costs and consumption from, inter alia, invoice data and building electricity sub-meters where available. The organisation intends to make a significant investment in smart metering technology over the next two financial years. This investment will greatly improve data collection and create the opportunity to carry out a more detailed monitoring of building energy performance and to identify carbon saving projects.

It is our intention to report performance data to staff as a means to raise their awareness of the implications of their own energy use at work and to enable individual units to compare their performance against other parts of the University. This will help them to make informed decisions in business and strategic planning. Ultimately, we would like to be able to provide energy management information through web-based ‘dash boards’ which will monitor monthly progress in addition to providing data for key performance indicators.

Identifying appropriate management information solutions to support this plan is an important factor for the early stages of the plan’s implementation. Getting the data right will enable us to better evidence positive progress, identify dilatory progress early, and support development and enhancement opportunities.

12 - Progress Reporting and Review

This interim plan represents a snapshot of our current position as we continue to evolve our understanding of our scope 3 targets and their effects on the development and enhancement of this plan and its subsequent action and implementation plans.

We will review this interim plan in January 2023, when we will have accurate and relevant data and a better understanding of the range of options we can pursue to achieve our overarching aims. We will develop a targeted action plan that seeks to reduce the University carbon impact across all three scopes and with a much more expanded set of scope 3 categories that better reflect our true operations.

We have reviewed our current reporting cycle and intend to provide a formal update to this plan annually in December. This will allow us to assess our annual data gathering exercise that completes in November, review progress against the targeted action plan and make necessary adjustments as required on the basis of our performance (positive or negative) and with regard to the developing external regulatory context.

The Climate Action Planning Group will continue to meet on a monthly basis to help drive the identified workstreams forward and they will report on a quarterly basis to the Carbon Management Board. This will ensure that progress is being made and that there is accountability across the whole organisation.

University Executive Group

October 2022

Carbon Management Programme

The University is committed to producing a carbon management plan for climate change/carbon reduction.

The plan started in May 2009, Pete Downes, the University Principal at the time, signed up for the Carbon Management Programme. This ties in with the Universities and Colleges Climate Commitment for Scotland (UCCCfS) which our previous principal signed in November 2008.

See climate change reports from 2014-2021 on the Sustainable Scotland Network website.


Corporate information category Campus and buildings