Aleena Waseem

VP Charities & Community

How & Why Oxford Can Do More to Tackle the Climate Crisis

'six ways to tackle the climate crisis' (in green and white) with green leaves below text, all o

The environmental and climate crisis is something we often talk about but sometimes feel powerless to take action on. Of course, as Oxford SU's Planet Pledge campaign highlights there are lots of individual changes we can make but we can also all have a role in pushing for institutional and systemic change.

One of those institutions that has a key role to play and that we can influnce is the University of Oxford and luckily enough the University is working on a sustainabilty strategy right now, but we need your help to make sure the strategy commits the University to decisive action.

The strategy commits the University to achieve net zero carbon and biodiversity net gain by 2035 and includes areas such as food, travel and education. 

Many parts of the strategy are seen as sector leading including accounting for biodiversity impacts across the University’s supply chain through the Oxford-developed framework known as the Mitigation and Conservation Hierarchy.

However the Oxford Climate Society and Oxford Climate Justice Campaign have highlighted some top additional priorities and we are calling on students to fill in the strategy and make sure issues that matter to them are included.


The top concerns they’d like to see in the strategy are: 

  1. Climate Justice: Centre climate justice in all sections of the strategy, and research the ways that Oxford – both currently and historically – participates in colonial processes of exploitation and extraction, to the cost of indigenous peoples and frontline communities. Integrate sustainability and anti-racism policy throughout the University.

  2. Climate Education: Prioritise climate education in the curriculum across the University, including experiences of frontline communities and indigenous peoples, so all students have access to climate education.

  3. Historic emissions: Calculate and include historic emissions including scope 1 and 2 within the sustainability strategy and develop equitable solutions to reflect Oxford’s historic and continuing impact.

  4. Research: The University must commit to no longer carry out research into the extraction of fossil fuels.

  5. Sponsorship: The University should commit to no longer take research grants, donations or sponsorships from any fossil fuel company or any company which significantly supports fossil fuel companies through investment or otherwise.

  6. Careers: The Career Service should be prohibited from advertising positions on behalf of any fossil fuel company that does not have a credible net zero plan as defined within the Oxford Martin Principles.

Students and staff can fill in the consultation here. The consultation closes on 6th December 2020.


The Environmental Sustainability Strategy only relates to the central University and the student groups are calling on all colleges and PPHs across the university to develop their own similar strategies with targets and do more to be sustainable organisations.

We welcome the Sustainability Strategy and its targets but there is still more work to be done and we’re encouraging every student to get involved by filling in the consultation to ensure their voice is heard. At Oxford SU we’re also lobbying colleges to adopt similar strategies to ensure all parts of the collegiate University play their role in tackling the Climate Crisis.

At Oxford SU are hosting a discussion with senior University leaders working on the Environmental Sustainability strategy to enable students to ask whether the University is doing enough to tackle the Climate and Environmental Crisis. The event is taking place virtually on Thursday 26th November at 5pm for details click here.

What can can I do to get involved?

  1. Fill in the consultation highlighting any concerns you may have
  2. Spread the word and get your mates to fill in the consultation
  3. Share our graphics and campaign on social media to get other students to fill in the consultation 
  4. Pass a motion in your JCR/MCR to back the strategy, highlight concerns and spread the word!
  5. Get your club/society to spread the word on their social media/email newsletter!
  6. Join our event on the 26th November to hear about the Uni's plans for the Sustainability Strategy
  7. Sign up to Oxford SU's Planet Pledge to join our wider campaign!


Nathan Lawson, President of Oxford Climate Society said: ‘We’re pleased to be joining the campaign to get the University of Oxford to take action on the Climate Crisis. We feel the strategy consultation is a great opportunity for students to highlight the issues they think the University should be focussing on. In particular we’d like to see more in the strategy about the centrality of climate justice and climate education.’

Oxford Climate Justice Campaign said: ‘We recognise that the University's strategy represents a significant improvement on Oxford’s previous commitments. However, the existing strategy would still enable Oxford to continue using its wealth and privilege to make the climate crisis worse. That is why we are calling on all students to fill in the consultation and to ensure that Oxford addresses climate injustice once and for all.’

Harriet Waters, Head of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Oxford said: ‘The draft strategy reflects ambitious thinking by the University, the result of hours of work by leading academics, professionals and student representatives. When adopted, the University will be making a serious commitment to achieving biodiversity net gain and net zero carbon by 2035. Implementing the strategy will require engagement from across the University community. The consultation offers an opportunity to highlight additional or different priorities and to challenge the University.  We welcome inputs from students now and in the future.’

Taras Bains Vice-President of the Oxford Nature Conservation Society said: ‘We welcome the strategy and its the biodiversity targets. We’d also like to see the University ensure that does not contribute to the destruction of important habitats for biodiversity both nationally and globally through its supply chain of products like food, materials and paper products and that there are no new developments on areas of high biodiversity value.’

Fill in the consultation


Ben Farmer
VP Charities and Community 2020-21