At Hertford College, we believe that responding to the climate crisis is our urgent responsibility. That’s why, on Earth Day 2021, we’re announcing our commitment to a goal of net-zero carbon emissions and a biodiversity net gain by 2030 – at the latest.
Already, we’re taking immediate action on quick wins, such as reducing unnecessary food packaging and working to scale back and offset our printed communications. We’ll now complete a comprehensive audit of our current emissions and biodiversity levels to give us a baseline to work from over the next decade.
From here, we will set targets for reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions as part of a college-wide Sustainability Action Plan, with ambitious carbon targets for our existing estate, new buildings, food, energy and travel. We will also ensure that our investment policies align with sustainable and climate-conscious investment standards and do all we can to support Oxford University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy. Naturally, some of our plans will require investment to bring them to fruition and we will soon be launching a Sustainability Fund for donors to support our efforts to be a front-runner on climate and sustainability.
To drive our effort, we have established a Sustainability Board, chaired by the Principal and bringing together our academics, alumni, staff, undergraduate and graduate students. “The Sustainability Board is anything but a top-down hierarchy – everybody is enthusiastic about involving the whole Hertford community,” says David Rom, a first-year undergraduate and the JCR’s Environment & Ethics Rep, adding “I strongly believe that our college can pioneer an Oxford-wide effort in tackling the climate crisis.”
Principal Tom Fletcher also believes in the importance of mobilising all of Hertford’s students, staff and supporters, saying that “getting Hertford to net-zero is an ambition that both unites our community and can only be delivered by the community as a whole.”
“But this is just one part of our wider ambition on confronting the climate crisis,” he continues. “We will continue to champion teaching and research on environmental change – from understanding climate events like floods and droughts to thinking about corporate climate risk management, the impacts of nature conservation, and sustainable models for food and agriculture. We will also support the personal and academic development of our students who will lead the local, national and global response to the climate crisis in the future.”
Planning for the next decade
Our wider vision for Hertford in 2030 will be launched next month, covering our aspirations to be a centre for excellent teaching, a pioneer of access, sustainability and opportunity, and a thriving community that prepares people for the challenges of the future. Whatever your relationship with Hertford, we want you to be part of the conversation – what should the college look like in a decade’s time and how can we achieve it together?
Reacting to today’s announcement, Hertford DPhil researcher Alex Clark, who works on low-carbon transition at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment said “it’s great to see Hertford embrace the urgency of environmental challenges and take responsibility for them by committing itself to this ambitious programme. Minimising the footprint of the college itself is of course important and commendable, but it is particularly encouraging to see an ambition for wider systemic change, where our actions and research can influence the behaviour of those beyond the college.”
His thoughts are echoed by the other students involved in the early stages of establishing the Sustainability Board. “I speak on behalf of the entire graduate student body,” says MCR Charities, Community & Environment Officer Bridget Donaldson, “when I say we feel incredibly proud to be supporting the transition to net-zero. Hertford is a college synonymous with positive change and this is the perfect opportunity to come together as a collective, setting an example for others to follow as we strive for meaningful change.”
Kitty Attwood and Laura Watson, two second-year Geographers who are the Hertford representatives in Oxford Climate Society’s Decarbonise Oxford campaign, said “we’re really pleased to see Hertford making such bold, public commitments to both biodiversity and net-zero emissions, which are vital to the future of our college and community. It has been really rewarding to work on behalf of the JCR and Decarbonise Oxford in a transition which is emblematic of the wider values of collaboration and ambition that Hertford advocates.”
Fifty years ago, Hertford revolutionised the traditional Oxford admissions model and went on to be a pioneer in co-education as part of the first group of all-male colleges to admit women in 1974. We’re confident that we can build on our pioneering heritage in the current fight against climate change. In making this public commitment to sustainability, we resolve to be good neighbours and good citizens today, and to be better ancestors for tomorrow.