A call to arms on the climate emergency

Goldsmiths’ community and Professor Frances Corner OBE, Warden of Goldsmiths respond to the climate emergency

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Frances Corner in the grounds of Goldsmiths

Putting climate at the top of the agenda

Climate change is one of the most significant challenges facing the world today, and one that Goldsmiths’ students and staff have a passion to resolve.

There has never been a more important time to take climate action as a College and reduce our impact on the environment.

In 2018, when he was President of the Students' Union, Joe Leam said:

“The fact that we’ve got this stage of a climate emergency after 20 years of politicians and scientists discussing climate change, and that very little change has come it shows that we need a huge intervention rather than these individualised efforts. We need outright change on a vast level to really intervene.”

This call for urgent action was outlined by a joint student and staff-led campaign called Green New Deal. Led by representatives from the Students’ Union and members of staff, the campaign made a series of clear calls on the College to respond. In a clear demonstration of the power of the community voice, the campaign was taken seriously at the highest level and turned into action.

On joining Goldsmiths as Warden, Professor Frances Corner recognised the importance of our community’s commitment to this issue and looked to recognise its ambitions by making climate action a key strategic focus for the College.

Professor Corner said:

“At Goldsmiths, our staff and students care passionately about the future of our environment. ‘Climate emergency’ is not just an empty phrase, it is a call to arms. At this defining moment in our global history, Goldsmiths’ community has answered this call. Not just with words and empty promises, but with action.”

Actions not just words

The ambitious goals to reduce Goldsmiths’ environmental impact are being implemented as part of our Green New Deal project. This is a robust plan of action which covers everything from climate-conscious enhancements to the way the university is run, to improving biodiversity on campus.

Actions already taken include:

  • A ban on the sale of all beef products in campus outlets
  • 10p levy introduced on bottled water and single-use plastic cups
  • Switching to a 100% renewable energy supplier
  • Divestment from companies making more than 10% of their profit from fossil fuel extraction
  • Work to cut the College’s carbon emissions, with a 17% overall reduction in 2019-20
  • Adapting campus infrastructure to support biodiversity with the introduction of bat and bird boxes
  • Reducing lawnmowing on campus to protect habitats

Joe, former Students’ Union President outlined the impact that these changes can have on our planet:

“Banning beef is something that has got us a lot of headlines, but if you look at it, it’s not really as tokenistic as you think. According to an article, I read recently on the BBC, eating beef once a week is the equivalent to heating the average UK home for 95 days or driving 1,542 miles.”

In addition to this, one of the ways that Goldsmiths can make a lasting impact is through our teaching.

Professor Corner added:

“We try to ensure that our robust portfolio of programmes offers students the opportunity to explore and respond to the challenges we face today. Not only does this give them the tools they need to stand out in an increasingly competitive jobs market, but to make real change in the world. 

“In response to the climate emergency, we have introduced two new Masters programmes – MA Art and Ecology, and MA Ecology, Culture and Society that encourage students to explore the pressing ecological questions of our time.”

This year, we will also be launching a new MA in International Retail Business, Sustainability & Technologies. This multidisciplinary programme puts sustainability front and centre, engaging with the pressing socio-cultural issues within the retail industry.

Decisive action on climate change - PLAN25

The Goldsmiths  Green New Deal has led to the creation of the PLAN25 programme. This sets ambitious targets that will see the College’s carbon emissions reduced significantly. Some key goals of PLAN25 are: 

  • Certified carbon neutral organisation by 2025
  • Zero emissions campus by 2030
  • 50% reduction in carbon-intensive travel by 2025
  • 50% reduction in single-use plastics by 2025
  • 90% campus recycling rate by 2025
  • 100% energy-efficient LED lighting by 2025

Professor Corner continued:

“Together, we have set out a clear plan to deliver the urgent changes needed to cut our carbon emissions and encourage the growth of biodiversity on campus. This work not only benefits us and our local community of Lewisham, but will mean a lasting legacy of change for our planet.”

 You can find out more about how Goldsmiths is reacting to the climate emergency by following news on the Green New Deal.