The University of Bristol has become the first UK university in the country to declare a climate emergency.
The university says that by declaring a climate emergency they are recognising the ‘deep concerns’ of students, with many reporting a strong link between climate change anxiety and mental health issues.
500 students signed a petition which was delivered to the university’s Vice-Chancellor earlier this week, demanding action on climate change.
Biology student Giles Atkinson who led the student petition said universities must be leaders in the response to climate change.
‘This declaration will help communicate the urgency of the situation and inspire further action. We hope that other universities follow suit,’ he said.
The University of Bristol made a promise to become carbon neutral by 2030 in 2015, and since then they’ve reduced carbon emissions by 27%.
In March 2018 they also announced plans to divest completely from all investments in fossil fuel companies within two years.
Several of the university’s researchers have been lead authors on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports including the groundbreaking report published in October 2018 that said global warming needs to be kept to a minimum of 1.5 degrees to avoid catastrophic effects.
Bristol City Council also recently declared a climate emergency, with the authority achieving their target to reduce carbon emissions by 65% two years ahead of their 2020 goal.
Meanwhile, the council has been criticised for their handling of a government air quality directive to set out how they will comply with legal limits for nitrogen dioxide.
Last month, Defra minister Therese Coffey threatened them with legal action after missing two deadlines to produce an Outline Business Case for a Clean Air Zone in the city.
Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees expressed regret at missing the deadline saying it was ‘unavoidable’ because the council’s own modelling indicated the measures would have ‘significant adverse impacts’ on some of the poorest people in the region.
Photo credit – Assimifne