Universität Hamburg Publishes Climate Protection Report for 2019-2022

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Photo: Universität Hamburg / Denstorf Audimax at Universität Hamburg
Photo: Universität Hamburg / Denstorf Audimax at Universität Hamburg
The report follows on the heels of the University’s sustainability report (2015-2018). The climate protection report is based only on greenhouse gas emissions, not on the entire spectrum of sustainability. A comprehensive report on sustainability in research, teaching, knowledge exchange, and administration will be published in 2024.

Universität Hamburg sees sustainability in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals-as a comprehensive concept including ecological and societal goals. As a university, Universität Hamburg divides its sustainability concerns as follows: Universität Hamburg has...

  • a footprint, meaning negative impact on things like CO2 emissions;
  • a -handprint,- meaning teaching and knowledge exchange on sustainability; and
  • a -brainprint,- meaning research activities related to sustainability.

  • The present climate protection report focuses on the footprint, meaning greenhouse gas emissions. The University does not, however, ignore the other dimensions. In 2023, a variety of activities in the field of sustainability were implemented, from participatory formats such as the open plenum to a biodiversity lab.

    University president Hauke Heekeren: -Universität Hamburg is a university for sustainability, moving forward in the area of climate protection and making its own contribution. This climate protection report is the first large milestone and we are forging new paths among German universities, e.g., with a comprehensive balance for Scope 3 emissions and the development of suitable measures. The goal is to put Universität Hamburg on the best possible footing to achieve climate neutrality. This is how we inspire society. We thank our chief sustainability officer, the Sustainability Office, and everyone involved.-

    Laura Marie Edinger-Schons, chief sustainability officer: -As a university, we can contribute in many ways to sustainable development. A first, basic step is to conduct ourselves sustainably within our own 4 walls and to lead by example. To steer developments in an evidence-based fashion, we need solid data and we have now published this in our climate protection report for 2019 to 2022. Now we will do everything in our power to promote as quickly as possible our university’s transformation towards sustainability-together with everyone involved. After all, sustainability is a team sport and we want to take everyone along for the ride!-

    Most important points in the climate protection report (2019-2022):

  • The climate protection report was developed according to the internationally recognized Standard Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Emissions were measured extensively in Scope 1 (institution’s own, direct emissions), 2 (indirect emissions from electricity and district heating, and 3 (e.g. mobility and procurement; only external services have been omitted). In particular, only few organizations have to date have so extensively calculated emissions in Scope 3.
  • In 2019, the University caused 70.476 t Co2e; in 2020 57.157 t CO2e; inr 2021 62.504 t Co2e; and in 2022 68.152 t CO2e. The University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) and DESY do not form part of the balance because they publish their own reports.
  • For Scopes 1 and 2, the University is aiming for greenhouse gas neutrality by 2030 in line with the GHG Protocol and if external circumstances allow. An important factor here will be climate neutrality with regard to district heating in Hamburg. If this is mostly climate neutral by 2030, the University can achieve its climate goals in this area.
  • The 3 areas with the highest greenhouse gas emissions are energy, district heating, and commuting. The University already derives 100 percent of its energy from ecological sources (just as some other universities do) and the balance is calculated using the emissions factor of Germany's electricity mix. The argument for this is that the purchase of ecological energy does not result in any additional renewable energy. The University seeks to reduce these estimated emissions by direct use use of renewable energy.
  • Technical solutions to reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions often involve substantial investments (e.g., converting heating systems) and require internal and external consultation. If University members change their behavior, this can lead to quick reductions in emissions. In Scope 3 in particular, measures to change use and mobility can lead to substantial CO2 reduction at low cost. The now-extensive data on Scope 3 emissions makes it possible for the University to develop purposeful measures for the most fundamental emissions and to measure their impact in the upcoming years:
  • The 2023 climate protection report should form the foundation of the University’s climate strategy. An annual update on our emissions balance is planned. Next year, our focus will also shift to the implementation of measures to reduce emissions and making data collection automatic. This reveals the importance of digitalization, which we ensure at the University through a -twin transformation- strategy, meaning transformation to a more sustainable and digital university via close cooperation between the chief sustainability office and the chief digitalization officer in the Executive University Board.

  • The Sustainability Office staff has garnered a lot of knowledge in the process of collecting their data, e.g., on the Scope 3 balance. This will be made available in the report and elsewhere to that other interested universities and organizations can save time and resources, if desired, as they develop their own climate protection reports.