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No Longer Sustainable? KTH Tumbles Down Climate Ranking

Jerren Gan -

Benjamin Javitz -

Although we pride ourselves on taking active steps to become a more sustainable university, the recent Climate Action Ranking by Klimatstudenterna saw KTH’s ranking (and score) falling significantly. What’s happening? Are the sustainability measures failing?

Every year, Klimatstudenterna (The Climate Students) releases a Climate Action Ranking, ranking the climate actions taken by Sweden’s universities and colleges. And in the past, KTH has done exceedingly well. In 2021, KTH was 3rd on the list with a score of 86 (out of 100). In 2022, we did even better and ranked first with a score of 95. Yet, in the 2023 report, KTH dropped to 17th place (with a measly score of 45). Why did this happen?

Before we can understand the drop in ranking, it is crucial that we first understand how the rankings come about. To find out more, OL spoke to Kimatstudenterna and asked what their mission was: “Climate Students Sweden is an organization that pushes for Swedish higher education institutions (HEIs) to decrease their emissions to reach near-zero emissions by 2030. We believe HEIs should practice what they teach and use the knowledge and science they produce to be leading actors in the climate transition.”. On their website, it is also stated that “the ranking is based on a questionnaire answered by Sweden's institutions of higher education[...] six areas are examined: total greenhouse gas emissions, business travel, energy use, purchasing, financial investments, and waste”.

Klimatstudenterna highlighted that for the past few years, KTH was on a good path because “KTH measures its emissions in various sectors and has formulated clear, measurable, and timebound goals for decreasing their emissions, which is good. This gave them high points in the category ‘Goals and Action Plans’ in previous years, as well as this year.”. This is a good thing to hear as a student that cares about sustainability. To achieve the targets, the university has defined quantifiable goals that can be used to assess the organization’s progress. However, this also means that the new near-bottom position is a surprise. Given that KTH has continued to show good performance in creating these goals, what were the main reasons for the dip in the score?


For the last years, flying emissions have been low across the board, largely due to the pandemic. In 2022, flying returned to worrying levels, with KTH having the highest emissions at 1283 kg CO2 per full-time employee. This is higher than KTH’s pre-pandemic levels, giving KTH very low points in the category ‘Flying Emissions’. This is the biggest factor for KTH ending up so low in the ranking.” At the same time, while KTH continues to have clear goals, Klimatstudenterna noted that “several of them are not on track to be met”. KTH admitted this in an article published on the KTH Intranet in March: "One of the goals was for the environmental impact from KTH’s business travel, measured in terms of annual man hours, to decline by 25 per cent in 2022 relative to the prior year. However, the follow-up now shows that the environmental impact of business travel (defined to include plane, car, rail and bus travel) has risen by approx. 11 per cent per full-time employee."

Apart from pushing for fewer flights and swapping them out for video conferencing whenever possible, we also asked Klimatstudenterna what other aspects KTH should work on changing in the coming years: “KTH produces a lot of research in areas related to the climate transition, such as energy, materials, waste, and digitalization. They are incredibly well-positioned to play a leading role in implementing emission-reducing measures. KTH needs to work on applying solutions in line with the science that they produce”.

If you want to read the entire report, Klimatstudenterna has it here on their website.

Publicerad: 2023-05-09

Ansvarig utgivare: Benjamin Javitz
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