UKC plans to commit to another 30 years of environmental negligence

Tom Nice 26 February 2021

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of InQuire Media

Photo by Marianne Martin

It appears that there is still a lack of urgency concerning the importance of a university-wide effort for carbon-neutrality. The Vice-chancellor claims that there are zero-emissions targets and yet we are still to declare a state of climate emergency, a feat that both Kent County Council and CCCU achieved in 2019. The University is now considering committing another 30 years to a gas-fired central boiler system, negating any chance of meeting these zero-emissions targets that remain behind closed doors and confined to committees.

This interferes with the government’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, meaning that if this system where to be selected it would need to be “retrofitted” in the not-too-distant future. In other words, it wouldn’t be able to serve the full 30 years, drumming up more unnecessary financial costs for a university already deep in debt. On top of this, the decision appears to have been made without a formal decision-making process on expenses and alternatives. Thanks to some pressure from the school of anthropology and conservation lectures, it appears that the process will come under review. If this is true, I would like to present the case for renewable solutions to the board and the students of this University.

The renewable sector has made significant progress in its efforts towards ‘grip parity’, an important turning point in the fight against a carbon-neutral society. ‘Grid parity’ is the point at which renewable energy can generate the same power at the same cost or lower as the power provide to our power grids. Scientists believe this milestone will be achieved before the end of this decade, prompting the market to promote renewable energy as the more cost-efficient way to make energy and most importantly, money. At this point of grid parity, we see the local and small businesses start to flourish whilst social accessibility improves. Imagine a completely carbon-neutral campus that boosts bio-diversity. Given the campus nature of the university, the possibilities are endless, all of which have huge capabilities of enhancing student learning and experience. This is all without mention of the legacy this would provide UKC and its students as a net-zero emissions university is yet to exist in this country.

As it stands, the global fossil fuel reserves have enough fuel already out of the ground to surpass the fatal 2oC of warming five times over! Economists have labelled these un-burnable fossil fuels as “the subprime carbon bubble”. To put that into perspective, the global financial crash was caused by a “subprime mortgage bubble”. So basic principle in life, when economists say subprime what they really mean is ‘don’t touch this with a 10ft barge poll’. If governments are serious about preventing irreversible climate change damage than any and all plans interested in generating more coal and gas for reserves not only completely contradicts that commitment, but means that automatically operating at a loss in the long term. The science is there. It’s time that the university starts acting on it.

These are just a few of the amazing stories that show us that science is winning, just like it is with this virus. Finally, the financial tide is turning after decades of investment. Not only is a decision for a gas-fired system a bad environmental policy, its bad economics. At present, the cheapest alternatives will likely be other fossil-fuel powered heating methods, but how long this will remain to be the case is no longer an ‘if’, it’s a ‘when’. Students must continue to hold this university accountable for its decisions. Whether that’s financial, environmental, or just general social elements, it’s our responsibility.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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