Library Services


COP26: sustainability in UCL Library Services

24 November 2021

Benjamin Meunier, Director of Operations and Chair of the Library Sustainability Committee, outlines how Library Services will support UCL’s sustainability commitments and act as a model of good practice in higher education.

Forest fires with UCL's Generation 00:01 branding overlay

Academic experts from UCL who attended COP have reported that the final declaration represents progress, but not at the scale which is needed to limit global warming to the target of 1.5C. In an article published in the Conversation, Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis (UCL Geography) also highlighted the role of climate activists, in Glasgow but also across the UK and more widely around the world, to push governments to make choices which place sustainability higher up the priority list for decisions on future policy developments.

We can all take stock of our individual responsibilities and potential to address the climate crisis, but at UCL we can also play our part at an institutional level.

What are Library Services doing?

In UCL Library Services, we had set ourselves sustainability goals in the Library Strategy 2019-22. The launch of the Library Strategy took place around the same time as the opening of the Student Centre. The building exemplifies UCL’s commitment to creating the most sustainable buildings on its estate. A further example of UCL’s continuous improvement in the design and operation of sustainable buildings can be seen in PEARL, which is the first UCL building classified as zero carbon. The Student Centre also hosted the launch of UCL’s sustainability strategy.

What we commit to as a university in terms of sustainability is based on 3 foundations:

  • Foundation 1: UCL inspires action.
  • Foundation 2: UCL is run sustainably.
  • Foundation 3: UCL shapes the debate.

What we have achieved over the past 10 years in Library Services as part of the Green Impact scheme demonstrates how we have contributed to foundation 2, ensuring that UCL is run sustainably.

What will the Library do to further improve our environmental impact?

For the past 2 months, the Library Sustainability Committee has run a Task & Finish Group to look at how we might re-frame our ambitions for the next Library Strategy, and discussion has been focused on all 3 foundations, particularly in recognition of UCL’s status in the sector as a world-class research library.

Others pay attention to what we do at UCL, and we can use this to model good practice which can then cascade to other institutions. We are also looking at international exemplars, particularly in northern Europe, like German or Scandinavian institutions where sustainability is embedded as a priority.

We will conclude these discussions in the Library Sustainability Committee before the recommendations are put to the Library Strategy Working Group early in 2022.

What can I do? 

At UCL we believe that you can change what’s possible tomorrow, by making a change today.

We’re inviting you to take part in making a sustainable UCL. 

You can start by taking the online course Change Possible: Be part of a Sustainable UCL, which is now a part of induction for new staff and students at UCL.

Further information

For more information on the Library’s sustainability work, please visit the Sustainability Group pages (for Library staff only) or our public pages on Sustainability in Library Services.