SOAS University of London

SOAS supports declaration of climate emergency

19 September 2019

SOAS supports the declaration of a climate emergency. We are committed to accelerating measures to respond to the climate crisis, and especially its effect on equalities and lives in the Global South.

Valerie Amos, Director of SOAS, said: “The recognition of the climate crisis faced by the whole world is overdue. We have to accelerate the action we are taking School-wide and look at ways in which we can expand what we are doing. Given our engagement with parts of the world significantly impacted by climate change, there is a great deal more we can do through our research and teaching, and through the engagement of our staff and students, to support action across the world.”

SOAS has taken action on climate since our first Carbon Management Plan [ SOAS Carbon Management Progress (pdf; 985kb)  ] in 2010. We committed, following a major student-led campaign, to divest from investments in fossil fuels in 2015 and were the first London university to achieve this. With our innovative Combined Heat and Power system (which has been in use since 2000 and produces lower carbon heat and energy) based in SOAS and shared across fellow institutions in Bloomsbury, and implementing our own energy-saving measures, we achieved a greater than 50% reduction in carbon output by 2015, which was above our target for 2020.  Our refurbishment projects incorporate energy-efficient measures, such as LED lighting and occupancy controls, and we are the first university to have a community-led solar PV installation. These SOAS initiatives have been recognised by the Platinum award from Eco-Campus in 2016, and are reflected in our current wide range of sustainability action.

But there is much more we have to do – and we are committed to stepping up our efforts, with the engagement and commitment of the whole SOAS community.

So what next? We will set up a cross-SOAS Climate Action Group to plan and oversee the implementation of policies and initiatives. This will be led by climate and environmental change experts from the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, working closely with SOAS Students’ Union, UCU and UNISON, and SOAS estates teams. 

The group’s focus will be two-fold:

  • First, building on the work that SOAS has done to reduce our own carbon emissions by 2025, it will carry out a climate risk analysis for the School and produce a new comprehensive action plan. These actions will include a ban on single-use plastic bottles on campus, reducing air travel for our work and ensuring green investments. 
  • Second, the group will help SOAS to integrate climate justice and education for sustainability across SOAS curricula, focusing our intellectual and critical expertise on working with external bodies, academic departments, professional services and estates at SOAS to prepare our students for the cultural, social, technological, ecological, physical and health challenges of living with a changing climate.

SOAS is a member of the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, which includes 200 UK and Irish universities and colleges committed to ensuring that higher education institutions reflect best practice in operational sustainability.

Academic expertise at SOAS includes areas such as the SOAS Centre for Sustainable Finance (CSF), a newly established interdisciplinary research hub bundling expertise in sustainable and climate-related finance and its role in transitioning the world to a low-carbon, resilient and equitable future.

Our President, Graça Machel, has long campaigned on climate justice, especially in the context of African nations – and just last week wrote in Time about the potentially devastating effects for African if climate change challenges are ignored.

Tomorrow, Friday 20 September, a wide range of climate-related events are taking place in London and across the world to support the declaration of a global climate emergency and to take action for climate justice. At SOAS, Unison are holding lunchtime talks by environmentalists in the Wolfson Lecture Theatre in Paul Webley Wing, 1pm-2.30pm, to which all are invited. There will also be a delegation of SOAS staff and students joining the protests and marches in Central London from 1pm. We welcome the fact that members of the SOAS community will be positively engaged in supporting climate events and activities, both tomorrow and in the future.