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Wolfson College is first zero-carbon UK higher education institution

Wolfson College has eliminated its carbon emissions in time for COP28, making it the first zero-carbon higher education institution in the UK. 

According to representatives from the College, Wolfson has not only achieved carbon neutrality – which can be attained with carbon offsets and credits – but also completely eliminated its Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions through an unprecedented decarbonisation project. Scope 1 carbon emissions are classified as direct emissions from owned and controlled resources while Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy from a utility provider.

Wolfson achieved this historic feat by “making use of a first-of-its-kind heat pump system, high-tech insulation and investment in electric transport.”

Sir Tim Hitchens, President of Wolfson College, had the following to say on the decarbonisation project: “40% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are linked to the built environment. Retrofitting old buildings may seem unglamorous, but it is the single most essential element in a successful energy transition in the UK. So at Wolfson College, Oxford we took the difficult decision to transform our Grade II buildings without changing their look, turning them from gas-guzzlers into zero carbon homes and offices.

“It has been a disruptive process, as any major change must be, but we’re delighted with our new environment. As the home to hundreds of students who will be inheriting this world, we wanted to show that it is possible, through an act of will, to turn the corner in the climate emergency.”

The College expressed hope that Wolfson’s success in eliminating carbon emissions would spur other higher education institutions to demonstrate similar urgency in fighting climate change: “Our multi-award-winning decarbonisation project demonstrates to institutions across all sectors that ambitious climate targets are achievable.”

*This page was amended on 6 December to reflect the fact that Wolfson College has not only gone carbon neutral (which can be achieved with carbon offsets and credits) but also eliminated its Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions. 

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