Interview with Laura Imperatori re: Cambridge Summer Programme in International Energy Policy and Climate Change Risk Assessment (its actually really interesting - we promise!)

by Markus Anderljung

Standing huddled under the arch at Pembroke's plodge in the rain, I meet Laura Imperatori. She's in a rush, having just finished a meeting with the Green League Table, which she is managing this year; she only has time for a quick coffee before her next supervision. We scurry down Trumpington Street and drop into the nearest café.

Laura, what did you do over the summer?

I was here in Cambridge for five weeks taking part in the Cambridge Summer Programme in International Energy Policy and Climate Change Risk Assessment (don't worry, I'll only say it once!). It's a summer programme part of the Cambridge Retrofit project, which aims to be part of lowering the carbon footprint of Cambridge by 90% by 2050 by retrofitting buildings. By simply adding insulation or adding double glazed windows to old buildings, you can make a great difference to the carbon footprint.

At this summer programme, we had about two hours of tutorials a day on measures to reduce energy use, how to convince for example companies to take such measures, assessing climate change risk and more. The main part though was that I was part of a project, where we looked at what retrofits colleges are already intending on doing and then estimating how big a decrease of carbon footprints these would have.

How did you go about this project?

We simply went to see the bursars at the different colleges and asked them what retrofits they were planning on doing. Then we estimated what reduction there would be in emissions based on data we had on the buildings, calculating it using measures of thickness of walls and the like. This way, we could for example see how much energy draft proofing would save.

So how did the colleges seem like they were doing?

Well, compared to Germany - where I'm from and where everyone is very keen on being green - they’re not doing very much! However, I don't know how their efforts compare to others around the UK. At the current rate, the colleges will not reach the goal of decreasing their footprint by 80% by 2050. Some colleges are doing incredibly well though. Another part of our project was just this: to find good examples of what colleges can do. Downing for example has built new accommodation with triple-glazed windows and great insulation, leading to a gas use reduction of 50%. If the other colleges follow suit, Cambridge could lead the way to a sustainable future.

Are you pleased with this summer placement?

Taking part in the summer programme was great. I will be taking over the Green League Table for the CU Environmental Consulting Society, which ranks and consults colleges on their environmental impact, and after this summer I feel far more confident in taking on that responsibility. In this role I will continue to push colleges to retrofit more aggressively. As to others thinking about also taking part in the project, I definitely recommend it!

More information about the programme can be found here