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Solar Pannels on a roof.

Picture © Viridian Solar

Overarching aim

To reduce scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions while supporting the University's plans for growth in research activity and staff and student numbers.


Scope 1 and 2

We have committed to achieving absolute zero carbon on our energy-related emissions by no later than 2048, and set an interim target of achieving a 75% reduction against 2015/16 levels by 2030. Our target is science-based (in line with the ambition needed to limit global temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees) and encompasses our electricity, gas, heat and steam, oil, biomass and fleet emissions (scopes 1 & 2 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol). 

The University has an aspiration to become zero carbon at least ten years ahead of its target date (by 2038). This is so the University can provide an example of what is achievable in terms of carbon reduction, and opportunities for others to learn from its approach, including both its successes and areas that are found to be challenging.

On SBTI (Science-Based Targets initiative)

(SBTi) is a joint initiative by Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF. The initiative, launched in 2015, defines and promotes best practice in science-based target setting, offers resources and guidance to reduce barriers to adoption, and independently assesses and approves companies’ targets. SBTi is focussing on the needs of the commercial and industrial sectors. While being supportive of the development of SBT guidance and verification for the world’s universities and colleges, SBTi has not yet created a framework and guidance for the High Education sector. This is why, while our target is aligned, it is not a verified SBTi target, 

Scope 3

We will reduce per capita emissions from air business travel by 25% against 2014/15 levels by 2024/25, taking into consideration our current under-reporting. We are working towards setting science-based targets for our most significant scope 3 emission sources.

Our approach

Our Carbon Reduction Strategy sets out at a high level what we are doing to reduce our carbon emissions and meet our targets in this area. You can find out more about our approach to carbon reduction here.

Targets and emissions across the wider and Collegiate University

Our target, adopted in 2019, applies only to the University’s operational estate – that is, the buildings and sites used to support the University’s teaching, research and administrative functions. It does not apply to all parts of the wider University, including the North West Cambridge Development, Cambridge University Press and Cambridge Assessment.

When the University adopted its targets, it committed developing carbon reduction targets for its wider estate and operations. Targets have now been developed for the North West Cambridge Development, Cambridge University Press and Cambridge Assessment.

The University is also supporting the 31 Colleges of Cambridge in developing their own carbon reduction targets. Whilst the Colleges do not form part of the University, there is a shared ambition to develop targets across all aspects of the Collegiate University.

You can find out more about carbon targets that are being developed across the Collegiate University here.

Progress to date

We measure our carbon emissions every year, and report them in our Annual Environmental Sustainability Report

Progress against our carbon reduction target to date is also shown in our latest Annual Environmental Sustainability Report.

Get involved

if you have an idea to reduce carbon in your department, find out more about the Carbon Reduction Fund and how to apply.