Low carbon futures: assessing the status of decarbonisation efforts at universities within a 2050 perspective

Walter Leal Filho, Diogo Guedes Vidal, Maria Alzira Pimenta Dinis, Wim Lambrechts, Claudio R P Vasconcelos*, Petra Molthan-Hill, Ismaila Rimi Abubakar, Rachel M Dunk, Amanda Lange Salvia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: The implementation of sustainability at universities means that they can also play a key role in the transition to a low carbon economy, and in assisting global efforts towards decarbonisation. Yet, not all of them have so far fully engaged in this area. This paper reviews the state of the art on trends in decarbonisation, and outlines the need for decarbonisation efforts at universities. It also reports on a survey aimed at ascertaining the extent to which universities in a sample of 40 countries across the various geographical regions are engaged in carbon reduction efforts, identifying the challenges faced.

RESULTS: The study has shown that the literature on the topic has been evolving over time and that increasing a given university's energy supply from renewable energy sources has been the cornerstone of university-based climate action plans. The study also indicates that even though several universities are concerned with their carbon footprint and actively seeking ways to reduce it, there are some institutional obstacles that need to be overcome.

CONCLUSIONS: A first conclusion which can be drawn is that efforts on decarbonisation are becoming more popular, with a special focus being placed on the use of renewable energy. Also, the study has shown that, from the range of efforts being made towards decarbonisation, many universities are setting up a team with carbon management responsibilities, have Carbon Management Policy Statements, and review them. The paper points towards some measures which may be deployed, so as to allow universities to take better advantage of the many opportunities an engagement in decarbonisation initiatives offers to them.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Number of pages17
JournalEnergy, Sustainability and Society
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2023


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