The University of Sydney has announced a new commitment to a pathway of net zero emissions.

The university is becoming the latest local institution to undertake new targets as part of a sustainability strategy and climate statement.

The university says it wants its power to come for zero-emissions sources, wants to send no waste to landfill and reduce its potable water use by 30 per cent by 2030.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence says climate matter will outlast the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest challenges of our time but so is the growing threat of climate change,” Dr Spence said.

“We know that urgent action is needed and as Australia’s oldest university we believe we have an obligation and ability to align our world-leading sustainability research and teaching with everyday life at the University – to test and showcase what can be done – in so doing, our ideas will help change the world.”

The Sustainability Strategy 2020 is the result of 18 months of discussions between over 1,100 academics, operational staff and students, and has a range of aspirational targets, and initiatives including a ‘living laboratory’ approach, where sustainability research and teaching can be put into practice and tested on the campus community.

Dr Spence said one of the strongest calls for action had been for the University to look at divesting from fossil fuels.

“We have committed to reviewing the University’s approach to investments as part of the strategy and a group of academic and industry experts, professional staff and students are considering potential options and a recommendation will be presented to Senate later this year,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

Sydney Environment Institute director, Professor David Schlosberg says: “The pandemic has, rightly, prompted discussions about what sort of world we want to build back post-pandemic. Our sustainability strategy outlines how we will be taking a whole-of-University approach to sustainability – it is about systemic change, not just individual actions”.

“It has been designed to prioritise where we can make the most impact in everyday operations, but is also focused on our research, education, governance, and in the way we care for the Country on which the University is built,” he said.

Initiatives that will be implemented immediately include incorporating sustainability across our core business of research and education. Work on the strategy started in a very different context pre COVID-19, so the University had reprioritised what it would focus on in the short term.

Dr Spence said it was important to get the right framework and support in place to enable change.

“We will look at how we can bring our research to life on campus, explore new education opportunities and find alternative ways to fund some of our operational initiatives, such as through grants,” the Vice-Chancellor said.