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Climate Action Plan

Lili Gyarmati, 2021, Pre-degree Photography, London College of Communication, UAL

Learn about the key areas UAL will prioritise

In his 2016 book, The Great Derangement, Amitav Ghosh asks why writers, like himself, have failed to live up to the challenges posed by the climate crisis:

"When future generations look back…” he writes, “they will certainly blame the leaders and politicians of the time...But they may well hold artists and writers to be equally culpable - for the imagining of possibilities is not, after all, the job of politicians and bureaucrats."

We must answer this call. As one of the world’s biggest creative institutions, UAL can, and must, play its part in achieving climate justice. Doing so demands institutional change at every level. We must bring our creative insights to bear to create a better future. Alongside members of UAL communities, we have co-developed 3 pledges:

  • We will change the way we teach and do research. We will teach students to develop sustainable practices and business models, and we will conceive and conduct research that contributes to climate justice.
  • We will change how we work with others. We will engage with people, cultures, and creative practices from around the world – sharing our creative insights with wider society, and collaborating with global climate justice movements to bring about change.
  • We will change the way we operate. We will reach net-zero by 2040, setting carbon budgets, reducing emissions, and cutting waste. We cannot influence others unless we first change ourselves.

For Amitav Ghosh, the climate crisis represents a failure of vision. It is the purpose of this action plan to illuminate the first steps forward. The rest is up to us all.

James Purnell, Jeremy Till and Dilys Williams

What we will do

The following commitments are based on detailed actions, demanding targets and measurable outcomes drawn up by the University’s Climate and Environment Action Group.

Changing the way we teach and do research

Climate justice requires change across institutional and individual levels. Through our teaching, learning, and practice, our students will actively engage in discourse relating to climate justice, developing work of environmental, cultural, economic, and social value. Through our research, we will contribute to resolving climate and related social challenges, innovating new products, services, and business models. Our policies to achieve this include:

  • Co-creating a set of guiding principles and initiatives for climate justice that will underpin the curriculum.
  • Developing a programme for staff development that will support colleagues as they change the curriculum to deliver climate justice.

Changing the way we work with others

We need to share our research and practices with others so that we can have a bigger impact. This means working across disciplines, sectors and communities, going well beyond the creative industries. And it means working with climate justice movements around the world. To influence others, we must also work together, creating an internal movement at UAL devoted to change. Our policies to achieve this include:

  • Co-producing knowledge within and across disciplines, sectors and communities and communicating this actively.
  • Extending our research by working with educational, government and industry partners, and above all with civil society, especially climate justice movements.
  • Building an internal movement for change with students and staff by creating opportunities for everyone to contribute to this strategy in an inclusive way. Making the case for interventions in human culture as the 4th pillar of sustainable development.

Changing the way we operate

If we are to lead by example, however, we must first address our own operations. This means setting ambitious Science-Based Targets to avoid climate breakdown, and charting an emissions reduction pathway for decarbonising within a just share of the Global Carbon Budget.

We are committed to full carbon neutrality by 2040 - a decade earlier than Government targets - and carbon neutrality from direct emissions by 2030. This will cut thousands of tonnes of CO2 from our operations. Our policies to achieve this include:

  • Producing an inventory of existing emissions to identify key targets.
  • Consolidating the number of suppliers we use and promoting local sources of products.
  • Reducing direct sources of CO2 through effective utility management – as well as reducing waste, cutting unnecessary travel, and setting individual carbon budgets.

It has always been the task of creative people to imagine new possibilities, and bring them to life. The climate crisis must be no exception. We must act now: for ourselves, for the planet, and for future generations who will remember this as the moment we not only imagined a better world but helped to create it.