Uniac - July 2022

10 In April 2021, we published a briefing on ‘Sustainability in Higher Education’. The paper called for the education sector to take further action on the threats and risks posed by climate and sustainability related issues. Since then, we have seen fairly limited action from the sector, and the case for change from a scientific and evidence led background continues to grow. It’s now likely that we will reach temperatures 1.5C over pre-industrial levels within the next five years, causing irreversible consequences for the global environment. There is an increasing drive to talk about sustainability in risk terms. We’ve seen this with the latest IPCC report1, and the recommendations from the TCFD2. Experts in the field are recognising that the effects of climate change are now inescapable and are looking to see what the likelihood and impacts of resulting risks are, and how these might be mitigated. 1 This refers to the paper produced by the second working group for the sixth assessment report to the International Panel for Climate Change. The paper details the work done to date on analysis of climate related impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. For the sector, we can view these under three key risk headings: Reputational Risks that employees / students / the general public do not perceive a provider’s actions to be sufficient, and consequently damage is caused to investment / recruitment / retention. This is the risk theme that is most commonly acknowledged by the sector, though we would argue is potentially the least damaging, and over focus on this may detract from management of other, more pertinent risks. Physical Risks that the effects of climate change will trigger physical damage to the estate / staff / students / visitors. Specifically for the UK, reaching global warming of 1.5C over pre-industrial levels will trigger increased volatility in weather events, which may lead to increased flooding / heatwaves (in a positive scenario), and subsequently pose difficulties for estates departments. The latest IPCC report suggests that we are already experiencing moderate to high risks of extreme weather events. Market risks Further afield, the increased danger associated with using finite resources and fossil fuels will place strain on international and national markets (e.g., energy and utility markets), and may cause significant price rises or resource scarcity. We anticipate that this will be met with increased legislation that providers 2 The TCFD (Task Force for Climate Related Disclosures) is an industry-led group which aims to create recommendations for policy makers on how to create effective legislation on climate reporting. Introduction Talking about risk 2. Internal Audit and Climate Change – March 2022