The seriousness of the changes to our climate and ecosystems and exponential acceleration of impacts has served as an urgent call to action for the College. This is a collaborative enterprise where Junior Members, Fellows and staff all have a role to play. So what are we doing?
In 2021 the College went live with its project to build a new Special Collections Centre. Minimising environmental impact has been an important part of this project. The Spencer Building will, we hope, be the first Passivhaus building to be linked to a sixteenth-century Grade I listed range of buildings. The architects are Wright & Wright, well known for the work they have done in both Oxford and Cambridge and most recently at Lambeth Palace. The project will complete in mid-2024.
We are rolling out networked heating controls across the College in areas where we have gas heating, allowing greater control over heating and with the ability to automatically reduce heating temperatures if rooms are not occupied. We believe, based on the trial at Banbury Road, that this will reduce gas consumption by 20-30% by volume.
The programme of upgrading old sash windows in Gentleman Commoners’ Quad was completed during summer 2022 with a view to improving the thermal efficiency of our heritage buildings.
We have made a budget allowance for a full thermo-efficiency survey of operational buildings as the first stage in identifying where our energy performance is poor. This survey will inform our programme of works over the next decade with a view to ensuring that we can make rapid progress to decarbonising our operational sites.
We are in the process of negotiating a sustainable energy project of national importance which will be used to deliver green power to UK research infrastructure in Oxfordshire. The College will, we hope, be able to take green power from this site using battery and solar arrays enabling us to audit the source of electricity used by the College. This is an innovative 21st century use of agricultural lands given to us by our Founders with the intention of sustaining the medieval College foundation.
We are in early discussions on the use of some parts of the Estate for natural capital projects where there would be a significant uplift in carbon sequestering and increase in biodiversity when compared with current use.
We are in the process of auditing the entire rural Estate to establish baseline biodiversity and natural capital opportunities with a view to optimising this over the coming years. We are also looking at schemes which we might put in place with our tenant farmers to encourage them to behave sustainably where they can. We are, for example, keen to encourage less aggressive cutting of hedgerows and the re-establishment of hedges lost in the 1970s and 1980s.
In September 2021 the Bursar joined colleagues from Cambridge University, in a meeting organised by Dr. Ellen Quigley, with senior executives from both Barclays PLC and Lloyds Bank PLC to press them on their lending and other policies towards carbon intensive industries. The intention of the meeting was to press lending institutions with whom Oxbridge Colleges do business to increase their funding to green industries and to divest from projects which do not support climate change objectives. The Bursar has also attended a number of Sustainable Finance symposiums, the most recent being held at Keble College in late June.
We continue, through ongoing dialogue and an annual audit process, to encourage our Endowment managers to behave sustainably. The Amundi Low Carbon Fund which we incepted with Clare College Cambridge now has £400m+ in assets.