In the wake of the escalating climate crisis, institutions worldwide are scrutinising their carbon footprints. Against the backdrop of globalised trade and climate change, the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) emerges as a forward-thinking solution. CBAM is a policy tool designed to tackle carbon leakage in international trade. Its primary objective is to ensure that imported goods align with the environmental standards of the importing country, thereby preventing industries from relocating to regions with less stringent environmental regulations. CBAM imposes a carbon price on specific imported goods based on their carbon footprint, encouraging global trade partners to adopt sustainable practices. This mechanism plays a pivotal role in promoting environmental responsibility on a global scale, fostering international cooperation to combat climate change and creating a level playing field for industries in different regions.

According to the UK government Consultation Outcome from 18 December 2023, the government has announced the commitment to implement a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) by 2027. The CBAM will apply a carbon price to emissions-intensive industrial goods, including those from sectors such as aluminium, cement, ceramics, fertiliser, glass, hydrogen, iron and steel. The liability under CBAM will be determined by the emissions intensity of imported goods, with no involvement in the purchase or trading of emissions certificates. Further details will be subject to consultation in 2024. The CBAM will implement an effective carbon price, reflecting domestic free allowances and ensuring consistency with the UK’s net-zero ambitions.

[CBAM] plays a pivotal role in promoting environmental responsibility on a global scale.

The forthcoming implementation of CBAM by the UK government is a pivotal link to the University of Sussex’s commitment, as it presents an opportunity to actively engage with broader national efforts to achieve net-zero goals. In a bold commitment to environmental sustainability, the University of Sussex has set an ambitious target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2035. This commitment, outlined in the strategy, involves comprehensive internal modelling of the current carbon footprint and potential decarbonisation options for the next few years. What sets the net-zero target apart is its inclusivity, covering not only direct emissions (Scope 1) but also indirect emissions stemming from our supply chain, financial investments, and staff and student travel (Scope 3). To achieve this goal, the University of Sussex has set interim targets for 2025 and 2030, subject to continual review and updates. 

As they strive to reduce scope 1,2 and 3 emissions in alignment with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, CBAM offers a complementary framework that aligns with the university’s commitments to mitigate climate change, both locally and globally. CBAM aims not only to ensure fairness in global trade, but also to encourage sustainability practices worldwide. The integration of CBAM into sustainability strategies underscores the interconnectedness of international and institutional efforts, creating a harmonised approach towards a more sustainable future.

Exploring net-zero strategies at the University of Sussex unveils both challenges and opportunities in the pursuit of sustainability. As the University of Sussex navigates this intricate landscape, it has the potential not only to significantly reduce its own carbon footprint – but also to inspire a broader global movement towards a sustainable future. The time for action is now, and through collective efforts, we can forge a path towards a more environmentally conscious and resilient world.

Image: Diagram demonstrating CBAM reimagined by Ray Das

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