Challenge 2

Promoting climate positive action through innovation

The actions of individuals produce emissions that drive climate change. From the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, from the transport and mobility systems we use everyday, to the way we use the buildings we live, work and play in, every decision we make has the potential to add to, mitigate, or even remove greenhouse gas emissions.

Engineers play a key role

Sometimes this decision is within the power of an individual to make on a day to day basis, other times they may have less choice due to system level decisions made by others which lock them into a more / less carbon intensive lifestyle, such as the energy mix of the distribution network they are using.

Engineers play a key role in providing the practical options available for people to decide between; for example, the ability for an individual to choose between walking, cycling, taking public transport, or driving is reliant on those services being available, convenient and safe in the first place. Engineers also play a key role in ensuring that the data and information is available for people to make informed decisions, and engineers can also influence people’s choices through intentional design of infrastructure and technology. Engineers must engage in advocating and supporting national governments with sound engineering insights to deliver the policies and commitments to secure a climate safe future for all and ensure that those with the most power to achieve this are held to account. What else can we already be doing through good engineering design to support individuals and communities to make climate positive decisions right now and lower their carbon footprint?

Make sure your design is consistent with the theme of World Engineering Day 2024: Engineering solutions for a sustainable world.


Development Goals

This year, the Hackathon is primarily focused on UN SDG 13: 

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

This particular challenge also connects with UN SDG 9:

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster

Participants may nominate additional SDGs that are addressed as part of their solution, including but not limited to, for example:

SDG 3 - Good Health and wellbeing

SDG 5 - Gender equality

SDG 6 - Clean water and sanitation

SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Encouraging climate positive actions

This particular challenge focuses on innovation to encourage climate positive actions at the individual and collective level.

The current global average individual carbon footprint is around 4.7 tonnes of CO2 per year. But actual per person figures are highly unequal. There is a huge disparity between carbon footprints of the world’s wealthiest, and the world’s poorest, yet it is the world’s poorest who will be disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change highlighting the significant injustice that frames the demand for climate action. The top 1% of emitters globally each had carbon footprints of over 50 tonnes of CO2 in 2021, more than 1,000 times greater than those of the bottom 1% of emitters. Whilst wealth is the most significant factor in determining the carbon intensity of an individual’s footprint, there are also large differences between those in similar wealth brackets but who live in different countries.

For example, the richest decile in the US emits over 55 tonnes of CO2 per capita per year, whereas in the EU the richest decile emits around 24 tonnes of CO2 per capita per year, in China the richest decile emits around 30 tonnes of CO2 per capita per year and in India the richest decile emits just 7 tonnes of CO2 per capita per year. This highlights that whilst an individual’s lifestyle choices impact their carbon footprint, so too do the decisions made by others that define the infrastructure an individual relies on in the country they reside in.

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To have the best chance of a climate safe future, the average carbon footprint per person per year needs to drop to 2.3 tons by 2030 (depending on population growth), roughly half the current average footprint.

Behaviour changes in energy and transport use can help: choosing energy efficient appliances, more efficiently regulating internal temperatures of our homes and buildings (heating and cooling) particularly as temperatures reach greater seasonal extremes, choosing rail over aviation, replacing internal combustion engine cars with low-emissions vehicles, and participating in ride / vehicle sharing schemes are some examples. Other behaviour change actions include choosing less carbon intensive diets, and generally consuming less, in particular reducing fast fashion demand.

Tackling this challenge requires acute understanding of human behaviour and the drivers for changing human behaviour. Centering design around people rather than technology first (e.g. human centred design) and exploring techniques such as so-called ‘nudge tactics’ can provide inspiration for how to identify behaviour changing solutions. The projected growth in urban populations also presents opportunities and challenges for encouraging significant numbers of people to adopt more climate positive lifestyles, for example in cities mass transit options become more convenient alternatives to car use and new ideas such as bike / scooter / car sharing schemes become more viable than in less dense environments. Targeting specific demographics is also important. If the top 10% of emitters globally continue to emit at their current levels, they alone will exceed the remaining carbon budget. So changing the actions and behaviours of the world’s richest 10% in particular is essential to keeping the 1.5°C target in sight.

Examples in practice

Tackling this
issue effectively

It is acknowledged that changing individual behaviour is not sufficient to tackle climate change on its own. Systemic change in energy supply, energy efficiency and demand management is also needed and actions are needed from governments, corporations and regulatory bodies to deliver this. As much as 70% of global industry emissions can be traced back to just 100 companies. Despite this fact, individuals can still take positive steps that combined will add up to significant progress, and ultimately, it is still human behaviour and our collective demands that drive companies to extract and burn fossil fuels to meet the energy needs that underpin much of human society as we know it. There is something each of us can do, and engineers can help us all to make better choices.

  • Labelling and GHG tracking/monitoring apps.


  • Energy efficient appliances (e.g. fridges), including those being developed for new markets (e.g. off, weak and mini grids).


  • Initiatives that reuse, repurpose and recycle materials for consumer products, reducing energy consumption needed to extract and process new materials.


  • Planet friendly food products and plant based meat alternatives.


  • Sustainable mobility options – and shared vehicle platforms.


  • Sustainable / more efficient home heating and cooling.


  • Innovative cooking appliances, especially for developing countries, that have reduced particulate and GHG emissions.


  • Communication strategies that encourage individuals to reduce their energy footprint though heating, cooling, cooking, transport etc.


  • Waste reduction through process and product innovations in the food and clothing industry.


  • Recycling of materials like aluminium, that require significant amounts of energy for processing.

Learn more about SDG 13

Climate Action

Human activity over the last 200 years has led to a current temperature rise of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. This has led to more frequent and hazardous weather events that have caused increasing destruction to people and the planet. Every additional increment in temperature rise will result in more extreme, and more frequent weather events, putting humanity’s future on planet Earth at risk.

There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to change this outlook. The latest UN assessment indicates that to keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C – as called for in 2015 in the Paris Agreement – emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Our actions in the next decade will determine whether this will be achieved, or whether we are headed towards a future climate that is incompatible with liveable and sustainable planetary conditions for all

Significant urgent action is therefore needed across all sectors, in all countries, and at all levels of society. Projected CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure alone will exceed the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C. Therefore, we have to immediately reduce carbon emissions, work towards net zero, and accelerate the transition to alternative energy sources. Simultaneously we have to develop and implement effective resilient adaptation measures for people and communities already impacted by climate change.


Engineers from all disciplines are at the forefront of bringing this vision to life, providing the practical means by which humanity has a chance to survive and offer everyone the opportunity to thrive.


Be part of this call to action and shape a brighter future for everyone.

ready to submit?

Submission Steps

Submissions are due by November 26th 2023 (midnight CET)

You and your team will need to:


Register on the submissions portal


Submission is a 5-min video presenting your solution, along with a short-written element, detailing elements of your entry. English subtitles are required, including for a video in English.


Video file must be MP4. Note – If you need to compress or convert your file you can use Handbrake

We would like to thank our esteemed partners in this Hackathon: Dr Marlene Kanga, Théophane Bélaud, Jacques de Mereuil, Ivan Juiz of WFEO. Indira Ashwini of UNESCO. Katie Cresswell-Maynard of Engineers Without Borders. Firas N Bou Diab of WFEO Young Engineers/Future Leaders. Tennille Scicluna and Adrian Rivera de Domingo of The Big Creative!

Submission Guidelines

This guideline has been designed to support the development of an engineering solution that demonstrates a considered response to one of the engineering challenges and also how one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are advanced through engineering.

The success of an engineering project depends on much more than just the technical feasibility of the initial concept but also consideration of human factors, environmental context, cost and economic benefits, etc., are very important to the successful implementation of any innovative and ‘technically-sound’ idea.


Below are a series of considerations we recommend you factor into your solution to ensure it is appropriate to the context where it is to be implemented. You might ask yourself these questions a few times throughout the development process – it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers right away! How can you build on your original idea, to improve it each time?


Most effective technical solution for the context


  • Is the technical solution the most appropriate and effective for this context? Take the time to show what alternatives were considered and why you are proposing this solution as the most appropriate. What was the process you went through to determine this idea was the best one? How have you demonstrated the technical feasibility of this solution?


  • How might you construct and/or implement the project? Is your solution one that considers local capacity for ongoing management, repair, and maintenance? As much as possible, does your solution or system proposal align with locally available expertise?


Environmental sustainability outcomes


  • What Sustainable Development Goal does your solution idea contribute to? How? Are there any relevant indicators that might be useful to incorporate into your submission? Have you considered the carbon footprint of your proposed product or system?


  • What impacts, both positive and negative, will your solution have on the local environment? What measures would you propose be put in place to mitigate any negative impacts?


  • Consider the long-term sustainability of your project proposal. What is the life-cycle of your project or solution? What measures could be put in place to ensure either successful continuation into the future or a successful end-of-life process?


  • Have you considered the use of locally available materials that are contextually-appropriate and environmentally-friendly wherever possible? Transportation of project materials and availability of materials which might be required for future maintenance are a significant consideration for projects in many locations. Where might your proposed materials be sourced from?


  • Have you considered the resiliency of your solution to climate change and disasters?


Engagement of key stakeholders


  • Who are the individuals, organisations, or networks who might be impacted (positively or negatively) by your idea? What might these impacts be? Now think again, is there anyone you haven’t included?


  • How would you propose a project implementing team engage and consult these stakeholders throughout the project? Think about the initial solution right through to implementation. What avenues are there for community members to become involved? What form(s) of community engagement might be required for your particular solution?


Are there any ethical considerations – such as adverse impacts to the environment, economy, social inclusion, culture, community, resource use, that warrant consideration?


  • Incorporation of cultural and social factors, specifically the integration of indigenous knowledge or practices


  • Does your solution align with and/or celebrate the cultural and social practices of people who live and work in your project context?


  • If relevant to your proposal area, what might Indigenous-led solution look like?


How has your team utilised digital tools, for example to develop models of your proposed solution as part of the solution. Also how the team has utilised ICT in the process of putting forward your submission.


Cost estimates and economic and non-economic benefits


  • What is an estimated cost of the project? Think about the ‘capital expenditure’ (initial cost to start) and ‘operational expenditure’ (ongoing costs over time), which might include materials, implementation costs, operation/program delivery costs, and maintenance costs. What trade-offs might you be making in your cost assumptions? 


  • Are there are any potential economic and non-economic benefits to community stakeholders which could result from the project?

Based on the International Engineering Alliance Global Graduate Attribute and Professional Competencies Profiles. 


Considering the proposal presented to you, evaluate whether the submission demonstrates the following engineering competencies.


  • 1 Application of Engineering Knowledge for problem analysis and development of a solution:  The extent to which the team has used its engineering knowledge and skill in developing a solution and the thoroughness with which the problem has been researched and analysed.


  • 2 Investigation, research, Design/ development and testing of solutions: The extent of experimentation applied in developing a unique and innovative solution, which also uses new and emerging technologies and ideas.


  • 3 Extent of use of digital tools and new technologies: The extent to which digital tools such as computer modelling, Computer Aided Design and Drawing, 3D printing etc. have been used to design, develop and demonstrate the solution


  • 4 Contribution to UN SDGs and Consideration of broad ethical issues: The extent to which the solution advances one or more of the UN SDGs and addresses broad ethical issues in terms of impact on the environment, different sections of society and the economy and how these have been addressed, by mitigating adverse impacts and enhancing positive impacts.


  • 5 Successful Collaborative, Team work project management and Communication of the final solution The extent to which the team has collaborated successfully and the success of communication of the challenge and the solution developed, successful project management, financial analysis of the feasibility of implementing the solution and plans for its further development.


Graduate Attributes that are addressed in the solution, referencing the International Engineering Alliance Graduate Attribute and Professional Competency (GAPC) Framework

Maximum Score per Category 4

Score: 0 – Not Addressed

Score: 1 – Limited attempt to address

Score: 2 – Some success in addressing the various elements

Score: 3 – Good attempt to address the element

Score: 4 – Addressed very effectively

In 2024, the hackathon has a single submission round. Participants will have the opportunity to make their official submission within 2 weeks of the Hackathon Challenge announcement.

Submission is a 5-min video presenting their solution, along with a short-written element, detailing elements of their entry.

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Challenges released

Explore the Hackathon challenges. Teams must select a challenge. Click to learn more