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National and international business travel can play a key part in achieving academic, research and education objectives at the University of Cambridge. However, in 2018/19, carbon emissions from business travel were estimated to be at least 16,000 tonnes CO2e, which is roughly equivalent to emissions from gas used for space and water heating across the University estate. Around 95% of this comes from air travel (2018/19 data).

To reduce emissions related to business travel we need to consider when travel is essential, and when we can choose virtual alternatives or low-carbon transport modes over carbon-intensive, and difficult-to-decarbonise transport modes such as flying. For example, zero-carbon alternatives to short-haul flights are not expected to be widely available before at least 2050.

The University’s Carbon Reduction Strategy has a target to reduce per-capita (i.e. per person) emissions from flights by 25% against 2014/15 levels by 2024/25. Between 2014/15 and 2018/19, per-capita emissions from flights increased by around 30% (Environmental Sustainability Report 2019). Emissions from flights were 27% lower in 2019/20 than in 2014/15 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University also plans to offset remaining unavoidable business travel emissions to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. The University has set up a Carbon Offsetting Working Group to identify the most effective carbon offsets to use.

Consulting staff and students on the draft Sustainable Business Travel Policy

Between August and October 2021, the University of Cambridge carried out a consultation with staff and students on a draft Sustainable Business Travel Policy. This draft policy was developed under the oversight of the Environmental Sustainability Strategy Committee.

Further updates on the University’s Sustainable Business Travel strategy will be added to the Sustainability webpages in due course.