The University of British Columbia is ranked number one in the world for taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts and ranked one in Canada for making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, according to Times Higher Education (THE).

“UBC’s achievements in these rankings is a clear reflection of the great work of our students, faculty and staff who combine their expertise to ensure UBC is a leader in creating vibrant, sustainable and connected communities and campuses,” said UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono.

THE University Impact Rankings, in which UBC ranks top three overall amongst 500 participating institutions across 75 countries and six continents, aims to measure universities’ social and economic contributions through their success in delivering on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs]. These SDGs include promoting good health and well-being and quality education; achieving gender equality and reducing inequalities; fostering innovation; building sustainable cities and communities and achieving responsible consumption and production; and tackling climate change.

“These rankings not only reflect how UBC has worked to dramatically reduce its own climate impact for more than 20 years, but also the importance of engaging in partnerships and collaborations with NGOs and provincial and federal government to develop broader sustainability approaches and solutions. We are proud of all of our researchers, students and staff who have been involved in this work,” said Vice President, Research and Innovation Gail Murphy.

UBC is a community where over 80,000 people live, work, learn and play, and visit each day. The campuses in Vancouver and Kelowna not only focus on providing a sustainable environment for its residents and workforce, they also play a key role in the cultural life of its cities and communities, providing public access to buildings, libraries, museums, green spaces, and natural heritage sites of cultural significance.

Despite an increase in both building space and student enrolment, UBC has also achieved a 34 per cent reduction in GHG emissions from a 2007 baseline. UBC established its Climate Action Plan that set some of North America’s most aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets in 2010. UBC is on-track to reduce GHG emissions by 67 per cent as of 2021, and targeting 100 per cent by 2050. The university has also reduced campus water consumption by 50 per cent since 1999, and reduced natural gas consumption by 30 per cent in the past five years.

UBC campuses also serve as living labs for sustainability research and knowledge, and equipping learners to become responsible global citizens and agents for change.

“We’re very fortunate at UBC to have a committed campus community and access to innovative sustainability research and infrastructure, the combination of which is allowing the university to take big strides in reducing its footprint,” said John Metras, UBC’s associate vice president, facilities.

Metras noted the completion of the $90-million hot water district energy system as a key achievement leading to water use reduction, operational savings as well as a 30 per cent drop in gas consumption for heating. The cost of repairing the older system would have been $190 million.

“The Bioenergy Research & Demonstration Facility (BRDF) is another example of how we are pushing sustainability initiatives forward,” said John Madden, director of sustainability and engineering with Campus and Community Planning.

“The BRDF uses clean wood waste to generate energy for 25 per cent of campus heating and hot water needs (100 per cent in summer), and reduces GHG emissions. The facility has displaced around 8,500 tons of emitted fossil fuel-based carbon dioxide annually since 2012,” said Madden.

UBC also ranked notably well with respect to implementing global partnership for sustainable development. UBC faculty, staff and students and private, public and NGO partners use the University’s physical infrastructure and research capabilities to test, study, teach, and apply lessons learned, technologies created, and policies developed to address global challenges.