skip to content




What is a Science Based Target?

Science Based Targets (SBTs) are developed using models that calculate the level of carbon reduction a particular organisation needs to achieve in order to do its ‘fair share’ in reducing global emissions.

As their starting point, the models reflect the amount by which global emissions need to be reduced to ensure that the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement are achieved. The Paris Agreement, which is an international response to the threat of climate change, aims to limit the increase in global average temperature during this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius (measured against pre-industrial levels), ideally limiting the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The models and data underlying the development of SBTs are provided by the Science Based Targets Initiative and the International Energy Agency. Companies adopting their own SBTs can have them assessed and validated by the Initiative, although this service is not yet available to the higher education sector. For more information on SBTs, visit

Overview of the University’s Science Based Targets

We have been working hard to develop SBTs for the Collegiate University. Each target shows by how much and how quickly different parts of the Collegiate University need to reduce their emissions, according to the latest climate science.

SBTs are organisation-specific targets, which reflect the particular activities and operations carried out by an individual organisation. The Collegiate University comprises a number of different parts, which differ significantly in their make-up and activities, which is why it has been necessary to develop a series of SBTs, rather than adopt one target for the entire University.

All of our SBTs have been developed to align with the most ambitious aim of the Paris Agreement (a 1.5 degree temperature increase limit). Currently, the Science Based Targets Initiative does not provide a target validation service to the higher education sector. Whilst our SBTs have not been validated, they have been developed by an external consultant who has direct, relevant experience and is a member of the Science Based Target Initiative’s Technical Advisory Group.

We will periodically review our targets to ensure they continue to reflect the latest climate science and data underlining the development of SBTs.

SBT for the University’s operational estate (adopted 2019)

The University’s operational estate comprises the buildings and sites that accommodate and support the University’s teaching and research, and associated administrative functions. You can find out more about the operational estate here.

In 2019, the University adopted a SBT that commits it to reducing scope 1 and 2 emissions from its operational estate to absolute zero by 2048. This requires a 75% reduction against 2015/16 emissions levels by 2030. The target is illustrated below.

The University has also expressed an aspiration to become zero carbon at least 10 years ahead of the target date.

SBTs for the North West Cambridge Development

The specific characteristics of North West Cambridge Development have led to the development of two, rather than one, SBTs:

  1. A carbon intensity pathway for electricity used by the estate.
  2. A carbon intensity pathway for heat generated and supplied by the energy centre at North West Cambridge, expressed as kg CO2e/ kWh of heat delivered.

These targets are awaiting approval and we will update this page with more information shortly.

SBTs for Cambridge University Press

SBTs have been developed for the Press’ scope 1 and 2 emissions, and for some aspects of its scope 3 emissions.

The scope 1 and 2 targets have been approved, and commit the Press to becoming zero carbon across its global operations by 2048. The Press have expressed an aspiration to achieve zero carbon by 2038.

As interim targets, the SBT requires the Press to:

  • Reduce scope 1 and 2 emissions from its UK-based operations by 75% by 2030.
  • Reduce emissions from its operations outside the UK by 65% by 2030.
  • Reduce emissions from its global operations by 70% by 2030.

Further information can be found here.

SBT for Cambridge Assessment

A SBT has just been developed for Cambridge Assessment’s scope 1 and 2 emissions.

This target is awaiting approval and we will update this page with more information shortly.

SBTs for the Cambridge Colleges

The University commissioned the consultant that developed the SBT for its operational estate , to develop a tool that allows each of the 31 Cambridge Colleges to develop their own SBT, if they choose to do so. We have also provided the Colleges with some guidance and training on how to use the tool.

Several of the Colleges are now making use of the tool and when they publish their SBTs we will add them to this page.