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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Cool Cats: Developing a Pathway for Zero Emissions at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge

Reducing emissions to zero by 2050 is now a legally binding commitment in the United Kingdom. In order to reach this target, organisations must take action to manage and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Higher Education Institutions are in an advantageous position to become leaders in the implementation of these strategies, as they have high economic and societal influence and their structure allows them to evaluate strategies at a small scale. In this context, the Cool Cats project proposes the commitment of St. Catharine’s College to reducing its emissions to zero in 10 years, in anticipatioof the national target. With this in mind, this work aims to identify and quantify the College’s direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions and define a plan of action to reduce them to zero within 10 years. 

Using a consumption-based approach, the total greenhouse gas emissions produced by the effects of St. Catharine’s College’s activities were estimated. To define a plan of emissions reduction, a back-casting approach was used, where the situation of zero emissions was defined and, based on the current situation, a series of steps were set out to help reach this end goal. Total greenhouse gas emissions were estimated at 5400 tCO2e, with Scope 3 emissions contributing 79%. To get to zero emissions, it is necessary to electrify all sources of energy use and phase out all sources that cannot be replaced with electric alternatives. This includes air travel, cement use, and meat and dairy consumption. Reducing the college’s energy demand is also a crucial part of this plan. 

By implementing the actions identified, near-zero emissions can be reached. However, to fully achieve zero emissions, there are certain changes needed that fall outside of the college’s control, such as the establishment of a non-emitting energy grid and the reduction of emissions associated with agriculture. Assuming that these changes are implemented by the end of the defined 10-year period, it is possible to reach zero emissionsFor this plan tbe successfully implemented, endorsement by senior leadership in the college is important, along with the setting of short- and long-term goals and the determination of all possible benefits in terms of economic, environmental and perceived leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.