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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge


Vishnu Karanayil


Direct emissions from the aviation sector account for nearly 3% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions and more than 2% of global emissions. As air travel becomes cheaper and more common, these numbers are set to rise. There is widespread acknowledgement of the necessity for sustainability within the sector and for using technologies and efficient practices to minimise environmental and social externalities.

This dissertation analyses the sustainability strategy of 48 airports from around the world to identify the steps taken by airports currently to achieve the vision of carbon-neutral growth and the ultimate objective of carbon neutrality. For this study, the sustainability profiles of airports were analysed to identify trends and best practices. The data has been sourced through interviews and company reports. This dissertation has produced a self-assessment tool for use by airports to evaluate the maturity level of their sustainability strategies and improve their performance in energy, waste, water and transport management.

The dissertation notes that there is an increasing emphasis on sustainability within the airport sector, and airports that have shifted to using renewable energy are well placed to achieve the vision of carbon neutral growth by 2020. This dissertation and the recommended self-assessment tool provide a practical and effective way for airports to continually improve their sustainability strategies. A more comprehensive decision-making framework can be developed as a continuation of this dissertation using more performance and cost-benefit data from individual airports to determine the business case for sustainability projects and practices.