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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Environmental sustainability outcomes
Engagement of key stakeholders
Are there any ethical considerations – such as adverse impacts to the environment, economy, social inclusion, culture, community, resource use, that warrant consideration?
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
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.
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.
Explore the Hackathon challenges. Teams must select a challenge. Click to learn more