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Climate related risk and opportunities

Annual assessment and response plan 2023-24

The University has a Climate Change Response and Risk Management Policy which sets out its responsibilities and approach towards managing risks and opportunities arising from climate change.

In response to that policy, this plan sets out the University’s annual assessment of risks and opportunities relating to climate change.  This plan is the responsibility of the University’s Senior Leadership Team, who, along with the University’s Executive Lead for Sustainability, are responsible for identifying those risks and opportunities.

A High Level Risk Register is also maintained by the University covering climate change and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risk management (HLR13)


Risks are categorised into two groups: physical and transitional. When assessing the likelihood of a physical or transitional risk materialising, SLT has considered whether the same or a comparable risk has occurred in the past, and our ability to prevent and manage the risk from happening again has been considered

The University’s campuses (Stoke, Stafford, London and Lichfield) are considered in terms of the direct impact of physical risks, but the indirect impact of physical risks on partner organisations, especially those overseas, is also considered in the transitional risks section.

Transitional risks and opportunities

Appendix A sets out generic transitional risks and opportunities arising from climate change.

Transitional risks are business-related risks that follow societal and economic shifts toward a low-carbon and more climate-friendly future. These risks can include policy and regulatory risks, technological risks, market risks, reputational risks, and legal risks. Transitional risks are more likely to be higher in a scenario where climate changes are more extreme due to more stringent regulatory and policy landscapes arising from the requirement to take more action. 


Duties and taxes

The requirement to reduce carbon emissions will be achieved by governments by the imposition of duties on the purchase of certain carbon intensive products.

For example, the EU has already introduced the EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).  The scheme is currently in a transitional phase, but will become a permanent scheme on 1 January 2026.  The scheme covers goods and materials imported from non-EU countries into EU countries and its aim is to ensure that carbon intensive but potentially cheaper goods and materials do not have a price advantage over those produced within the EU, where regulations are potentially stricter. The CBAM will initially apply to imports of cement, iron and steel, aluminium, fertilisers, electricity and hydrogen.


Monitor potential future changes in taxes and duties and take action to avoid them (for example by reducing certain expenditure) or ensure that the senior leaders of the University are aware that these are an unavoidable cost which must be accommodated with the existing budget of the University


Chief Financial Officer

Cost of low carbon technologies

Increased cost of construction and maintenance as low carbon technologies are more expensive than traditional technologies and products and services associated with the transition to low carbon are in high demand, and demand outstrips supply.


Ensure that budgets for future new build and refurbishment programmes are costed appropriately.  Lead times for the completion of projects may have to be adjusted


Chief Financial Officer and Director of Estates and Facilities

Restrictions on international travel

International travel may become prohibitively expensive or restricted in other ways.  International students may not be able to travel to the UK to study in the same way as at present.  Staff from the University may not be able to visit overseas collaborative academic partnership organisations as frequently as at present.


Develop a globalisation plan which will considers the impact of climate change on the University’s international operations


Deputy Vice Chancellor

Impact of climate change in other regions 

International students may not be able to travel to the UK to study owing to extreme heat, flooding, volcanic eruption, pandemic or other climate related events


Develop a globalisation plan which will considers the impact of climate change on the University’s international operations


Deputy Vice Chancellor

Choice of external investments

Consideration of climate related matters affects the University’s choice of external investments.


Adhere to the University’s new Responsible Investment Policy


Chief Financial Officer


Teaching and learning

Develop expertise in delivering teaching and learning and skills development around climate change and sustainability, supporting employability for graduates and the creation of ‘green jobs’.

  • Incorporating climate change response and sustainability into all UG and PGT programmes, including degree apprenticeships
  • Developing microcredentials
  • Delivering Carbon literacy training
  • Developing consultancy skills for net zero with SMEs using students as consultants (eg via Shared Prosperity Fund)
  • Delivering biodiversity and climate change awareness to primary school children through the Woodlands Forest School
  • Developing a relationship with Staffordshire University Academic Trust to help them to deliver climate change awareness and response
  • Working with Collaborative academic partners

PVC Academic

Research and knowledge exchange

Develop opportunities for externally funded research and knowledge exchange activities leading to high quality published outputs and impact case studies

  • Continue to develop research capability through the ‘Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Engineering’

  • Develop capacity for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)

  • Develop opportunities for co-funded PhDs


Deputy Vice Chancellor

Physical risks and opportunities

Appendices B and C set out the historic and predicted changes in climate in England. The average annual temperature is increasing, and extreme heat events are being experienced. Total annual rainfall is increasing, but less rain is falling in the Summer and more in the Winter. 

Appendix C sets out the extreme weather and environmental incidents which have been experienced at the Stoke-on-Trent campus in the last few years. This plan sets out the climate related risks for the Stoke, Stafford, London and Lichfield campuses


Excess rainfall and flooding (Stoke only)

The River Trent poses a threat to parts of the Leek Road campus.  The flood levels are included as Appendix E. Previous developments including the Leek Road Halls (student accommodation) have taken place with the flood plain, making their continuing use beyond the short-term unsustainable.

Management of the river beyond the University’s control (for example flood water being released up stream in an uncontrolled manner)

Previous action

Rewilding of stretches of the river on University land appear to have improved the flow of water during phases of heavier rainfall (completed 2021)

  • Declaring the area of potential flooding a ‘green area’ which is not suitable for future development or re-development.  A project is currently underway to build new residential accommodation on land outside of the potential flooding zone (estimated year of completion is 2027) which will allow existing student accommodation within the potential flooding area to be demolished and replaced by accessible green space.
  • Develop a closer relationship with Severn Trent Water and the Environment Agency
  • Monitor forecasts for potential future flooding episodes

Chief Financial Officer

Director of Estates and Commercial Services

Excessive heat (all campuses)

Increases in Summer temperatures, with spells of extreme heat, within term time or during University events (eg Awards week).  May cause health problems for occupants of University buildings and attendees at events

Affects building on all sites, with some regional variation – potentially greater issues at SU London

Requires greater levels of cooling in the summer which places strain on HVAC systems, requiring more energy to keep building interiors within tolerable limits.  Buildings without HVAC systems may become temporarily unusable and may be a risk to people with certain medical conditions.  Risk of business disruption including having to deliver teaching and learning remotely

  • Consider extreme heat within standards for new build accommodation and consider retrofitting the windows of existing buildings with heat repelling film
  • Monitor future temperatures and liaise with the Chief Operating Officer around potential short-term amendments to the University’s flexible working policy to protect the health of individuals
  • Monitor future temperatures prior to major events and make arrangements for temporary cooling equipment to be sourced

Director of Estates and Commercial Services


Water scarcity - Stoke, Stafford and Lichfield

Water will become scarcer in the United Kingdom and is likely to become a more expensive commodity over time.  There is a business risk arising from the potential increased cost of using water within University buildings, including student accommodation, and for maintaining green spaces, playing fields and other public realm spaces.

  • Reducing water usage through mechanical means
  • Working with staff, students and other visitors to reduce water waste
  • Planting drought resistant plants and grass types within the grounds

Director of Estates and Commercial Services

Loss of biodiversity

Invasive species of plants and animals damaging biodiversity and buildings.


Monitoring for invasive species and taking action as required


Director of Estates and Commercial Services



Appendix A

Generic transitional and physical risks and opportunities



Policy and Legal

  • Carbon pricing and reporting obligations
  • Mandates and regulation of existing products and services
  • Exposure to litigation


  • Substitution of existing products and services with lower emission options
  • Unsuccessful investment in new technologies


  • Changing customer behaviour
  • Uncertainty in market signals
  • Increased cost of raw materials


  • Shift in consumer preferences
  • Increased stakeholder concern/negative feedback
  • Stigmatisation of sector

Acute: extreme weather events

Chronic: changing weather patterns and rising mean temperature and sea levels

  • Resource efficiency

  • Use of more efficient modes of transport and production and distribution processes
  • Use of recycling
  • Move to move efficient buildings
  • Reduced water usage and consumption
Energy source
  • Use of lower-emission sources of energy
  • Use of supportive policy incentives
  • Use of new technologies
  • Participation in the carbon market
Products and services
  • Development and/or expansion of low emissions goods and services
  • Development of climate adaption and insurance risk solutions
  • Development of new products or services through R&D and innovation


  • Access to new markets
  • Use of public-sector incentives
  • Access to new assets and locations needing insurance coverage
  • Participation in renewable energy programs and adoption of energy efficient measures
  • Resources substitutes/diversification
Flow chart showing how risks and opportunities feed into strategic planning risk management. Risk management has financial impact on the income statement (including revenues and expenditures), cash flow statement, and balance sheet (including assets and l

Appendix B

Historical changes in England's climate
VariableObserved in England
Average annual temperature Increase of 0.9°c from mid-1970s  to mid-2010s 
Annual mean rainfall Increase of 4.5% from mid-1970s  to mid-2010s
 Sunshine Increase of 9.2% from mid-1970s  to mid-2010s
 Weather extremes UK-wide increase in extreme heat events, little evidence yet in changes in extreme rain fall
 Sea level rise UK-wide increase of ~1.4mm per year since 1901 (16cm to date)

Appendix C

Predicted changes in England’s climate
RCP2.6 (50th percentile)
RCP6.0 (50th percentile)
RCP2.6 (50th percentile) 
RCP6.0 (50th percentile) 
Annual temperature  +1.3°c +1.2°c +1.4°c +2.3°c
Summer rainfall -15% -14% -15% -22%
Winter rainfall +6% +6% +8% +13%
Sea level rise (London) +23cm +29cm +45cm +78cm

Appendix D

Consequences and costs of previous climate-related incidents
  • Evacuation of student accommodation 2019
Unauthorised discharge of chemicals into River Trent (by unknown third party)
  • Evacuation of student accommodation (2020)
  • Cost of hotels; some recovery from insurance
Excess heat during Awards week July 2022
  • Hire of additional equipment
  • Increased electricity consumption by air conditioning systems in University buildings

Appendix E

Map showing potential flood areas around the Stoke-on-Trent Campus.
Key of Flood Map areas assuming no defences, Flood Zone 2 shows ht extent of an extreme flood from rivers with up to 1 in 1000 (0.1 - 1%) chance of occuring each year. Flood zone 3 show the areas that could be effecred by flooding from a river with  1 in


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