An Extinction Rebellion student group at the University of Sheffield have offered their thoughts on the institution’s new blueprint for a sustainable future.

Last month, the University of Sheffield put forward its new sustainability strategy. It’s a wide-ranging plan which sets out how they are going to help tackle the climate crisis.

The University has committed to carbon neutrality on campus by 2030 and in all of its activities by 2038. 

The group said: “Given the predicted progress of climate change, achieving a net zero university by 2038 may be too late and we will always push for achieving this faster.”

The plan to embed sustainable development into education is also a point of concern for the student group. The University has said they are going to take a “balanced approach” to careers advice. 

Nathan Ralphs, a member of the Extinction Rebellion group, argued: “Given the continued presence of companies such as BP and Exxon Mobile at our careers fairs, it’s important to address the hypocrisy here.” The group has previously organised protests against the SU supporting banks which contribute to the fossil fuel industry.

Nathan Ralphs, a member of the Extinction Rebellion Sheffield group. Credit: Nathan Ralphs

The group, which was set up in 2018, did not denounce the strategy completely, but made clear there is plenty more work to be done.

Regarding the University’s strong ambition to make development on campus sustainable, the group said: “The recent construction and demolishing of the social sciences building, built mostly of concrete, highlights how this has not been integrated into decisions so far – despite the conversations at the time.” 

Ralphs added: “In the previous year we were involved in a protest against the University’s construction of the ‘transformer’ which is actually a gas-fired generator, despite their claims to be moving away from fossil fuel electricity generation.”

The pledge of sustainable travel was also on the group’s radar. Ralphs said: “Coming out of the pandemic we should be mindful of the unnecessary emissions and expenses as a result of academic travel to conferences. Many within the University should be commended for their efforts to support sustainable travel, but it is important that the administration facilitates this as much as possible.”

The University and Students’ Union plan to work in tandem to remove carbon-intensive food options such as beef and lamb from outlets. In regard to food choices on campus, the group said: “SU outlets such as Bar One have already made considerable progress in this area, so hopefully other campus areas will be able to follow the example.”

It is clear the Sheffield student branch of Extinction Rebellion appreciates the commitments laid out by the University, though now it is about putting those words into action.

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