Goldsmiths, University of London, is removing all beef products from sale from next month as it attempts to become carbon neutral by 2025.
Students will also have to pay a 10p levy on bottles of water and single-use plastic cups when the academic year starts to discourage use of the products.
There are also plans at Goldsmiths to install more solar panels on the college's New Cross campus in south east London, and to switch to a 100% clean energy supplier as soon as possible.
Professor Frances Corner, the college's new warden, said staff and students "care passionately about the future of our environment" and that "declaring a climate emergency cannot be empty words".
But the National Farmers Union (NFU) has been critical, saying it is "overly simplistic" and saying it represented a lack of understanding of the differences between British beef, and beef produced elsewhere.
Prof Corner said: "The growing global call for organisations to take seriously their responsibilities for halting climate change is impossible to ignore.
"Though I have only just arrived at Goldsmiths, it is immediately obvious that our staff and students care passionately about the future of our environment and that they are determined to help deliver the step change we need to cut our carbon footprint drastically and as quickly as possible.
"Declaring a climate emergency cannot be empty words. I truly believe we face a defining moment in global history and Goldsmiths now stands shoulder to shoulder with other organisations willing to call the alarm and take urgent action to cut carbon use.
Goldsmiths' students' union has backed the ban, with the president Joe Leam saying the university has a "huge carbon footprint".
NFU vice president Stuart Roberts said their position was to encourage public bodies to back British farming.
He said: "Tackling climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time but singling out one food product is clearly an overly simplistic approach.
"Our standards of beef production in the UK are among the most efficient in the world, with British livestock grazing in extensive, grass-based systems - meaning a greenhouse gas footprint 2.5 times smaller than the global average.
"Anyone wanting to play their part in helping our planet amid the current climate change challenge we're all facing should buy British, locally produced beef reared to some of the highest and environmentally sustainable standards in the world.
"The NFU has for years been encouraging public bodies such as schools and universities to back British farming and source their produce locally wherever possible. This makes more sense and keeps the choice to eat tasty, sustainably-produced meat firmly on the menu."
The college cited figures which show its carbon emissions are about 3.7m kg a year.
In a blog, Mr Leam said: "It is clear our university has a huge carbon footprint. The promise to have ended this by 2030 at the latest, with the hope of doing so by 2025, is one which is needed.
"Whilst this plan/action is only the beginning, and much work is yet to be done, it is fantastic to see Goldsmiths taking responsibility and responding to its impact on the climate."
He said the SU would be part of the process every step of the way and pledged to speed it up where possible.