Reducing emissions must be the priority for UK universities but carbon offsetting can also support the transition to net-zero, according to a briefing by experts from the COP26 Universities Network.

Co-Director of the University of Sheffield’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, Dr Rachael Rothman, contributed to the new briefing which provides guidance to support universities and colleges to develop offsetting policies as part of their net-zero strategies.

Authors of the briefing stress that these institutions have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in the move towards a net-zero future. Ambitious plans to reduce carbon emissions will need to be accompanied by some offsetting activity.

Dr Rachael Rothman, Co-Director of the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures and Academic Lead for Sustainability at the University of Sheffield, said: “As a sector, we have a responsibility to tackle the climate emergency. Carbon offsetting, as this report demonstrates, must not replace emissions reductions but can compliment these actions and help universities and colleges reach net-zero.

“The University of Sheffield is actively engaging with the higher education sector to inspire climate action. We will be applying the lessons of this briefing to our own activity in our journey to net-zero on campus by 2030 and across all of our activities by 2038.”