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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Assessing the vulnerability of Net Zero aviation strategies, to inform military decarbonisation pathways

Aviation’s climate change impact is already significant, and it is also under-reported, with military aviation often omitted due to a lack of available data. More mature commercial strategies might provide a baseline for militaries to plan from, however, key differences and deficiencies must first be understood.

Research shows that pathways often favour technological options that are more disruptive, ambitious, and uncertain, which consequentially makes them more susceptible to failure. For that reason, a metric of vulnerability would be useful to explore the range of options that are less susceptible to failure. This study designs a novel Composite Index to measure a decarbonisation strategy’s vulnerability across its portfolio of mitigation options. It assesses 6 strategies, providing 21 decarbonisation pathways, to determine the relative and acceptable levels of vulnerability, and to pinpoint specific vulnerabilities unique to their composition. This analysis can be used to communicate how and why a strategy is vulnerable to failure, so that decision makers can adapt accordingly, or expose tokenistic strategies so that their owners are held accountable. The world will not have second chances in its response to the climate emergency and tools such as this could be crucial to get this right, first time around.

It then analyses Royal Air Force (RAF) fuel data alongside a specialist interview to identify military and commercial differences. It combines these analyses to inform low vulnerability decarbonisation pathways for the RAF, which offer a greater likelihood of success.


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.