How Compensate supported LSE becoming the first Carbon Neutral verified university in the UK

Thursday, November 4, 2021

The London School of Economics and Political (LSE) is a world leading international university based in London. LSE takes comprehensive action to reduce its carbon footprint, and recently became the first university in the UK to be independently verified against the internationally recognised standard for carbon neutrality PAS 2060. The verification was conducted by the global certification organisation BSI and covered all measured emissions for the 2020/21 academic year.

44% emission reduction since 2005

LSE reduced its direct emissions by 44% since 2005, however, the road to carbon neutrality was long and it took years of effort and investment. One of the first steps to reduce emissions - procuring 100% electricity from renewable sources, such as solar and wind was taken in 2009.  And in 2015 LSE started a programme of investments totaling £4.8 million, to implement a range of energy efficiency measures for campus and residence buildings including retrofitting buildings to optimise energy use, fitting solar panels, installing LED lights and advanced lighting controls, insulating pipes, or replacing boilers and chillers.

Compensating for the unavoidable emissions

In 2020 LSE consulted with its student and staff community who supported the additional step be taken of mitigating the emissions the School cannot yet avoid or reduce. LSE conducted a formal procurement process to appoint a carbon mitigation partner, using a comprehensive criteria for a range of quality factors. Compensate came first against a range of international offset providers, in recognition for its high integrity approach in selecting and monitoring carbon projects and certainty in delivering real climate impact. Compensate is delighted to have been selected by LSE as their trusted partner for compensating their unavoidable emissions.

The development of LSE’s carbon credits portfolio was an educational opportunity, with LSE academics and students actively involved. Compensate worked in close collaboration with LSE to develop carbon mitigation portfolios for the LSE community to consider. Three portfolios were developed, with a focus on forest conservation, afforestation, and carbon removal. The LSE community voted for a portfolio focused on forest conservation projects, for their additional positive impacts on biodiversity and creating economic opportunities for local communities.

Ensuring real climate impact by partnering with Compensate

Over the past year, there have been numerous articles exposing forest conservation carbon credits as uncredible and based on flawed systems and methodologies. Some of the most prominent investigations were published by Bloomberg Green , Guardian , Greenpeace , CarbonPlan , Carbon Market Watch , Bloomberg Green and ProPublica . Compensate has long been aware of these market failures, and this motivated in 2020 the creation of a bespoke stringent project evaluation criteria with the support of its Scientific Advisory Panel. This criteria goes beyond international standards, which is evidenced by the fact that 90 % of evaluated projects fail the criteria.

The criteria ensures additional steps are taken to assess and ensure quality of offsets on additionality, verifiability, traceability, performance, permanence and leakage risks, community consultation and engagement, social and environmental co-benefits. Compensate scores projects in order to estimate the true climate impact of one carbon credit, which in reality corresponds to less than one tonne CO₂.  Each project is given its own overcompensation factor determined by its climate integrity score. To ensure true climate impact of one tonne, Compensate overcompensates or buys more credits on behalf of its clients than would technically be necessary to make a compensation claim.

LSE adopted Compensate’s unique overcompensation approach, to mitigate risks identified with the carbon methodologies of specific projects and ensure real climate impact.  In addition, overcompensation ensures that more carbon dioxide is always removed than the carbon footprint being compensated for. By selecting Compensate and its rigorous sustainability approach, LSE ensures that its mitigation efforts meet stringent criteria for additionality, verifiability, traceability, and permanence.

Net zero future

LSE is ambitious when it comes to climate action and carbon neutrality is just the beginning. Following the successful carbon neutrality verification, LSE Director Minouche Shafik commented: “We will continue to follow a challenging carbon reduction pathway aligned with climate science, to support the transition to a net-zero carbon world.”                     

The university is already working to achieve its next target of becoming through delivering on the carbon reduction initiatives set out in its . This includes plans for all new building developments at LSE to be net-zero carbon in both construction and operations, the electrification of gas-fed campus heat systems, as well as individual behaviour change such as carbon impact food labelling on menus to increase the uptake of plant-based options.

LSE’s Head of Sustainability Charles Joly commented: “Compensate’s rigorous and transparent approach aligns with our founding principles to know the causes of things for the betterment of society.”

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