Tyndall Travel Strategy - towards a culture of low carbon research for the 21st Century.

Towards a culture of low carbon research for the 21st Century, PDF iconTyndall Working Paper 161

The research community has highlighted for several decades the implications of greenhouse gas emissions for climate change. In response, world governments have agreed to limit global temperature change to 2°C, which requires drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In advanced economies, a commitment to a 2°C limit generally represents a reduction of emissions of between 80-95% from the 1990 baseline. Despite this, emissions from international aviation increased by 53 % between 1990 and 2011 in those countries. Academic researchers are among the highest emitters, primarily as a result of emissions from flying to conferences, project meetings, and fieldwork. Here we review the rationale for and alternatives to the current high-carbon research culture. We find no clear obstacles to justify an exemption for the research community from the emission reduction targets applied elsewhere. While stimulating ideas and creating personal links of trust are important benefits of face-to-face meetings, these benefits may be outweighed by the opportunities to reach much wider communities by developing and using new social media and online platforms. We argue that the research community needs a roadmap to reduce its emissions following government targets, which ironically are based on findings of the research community. A roadmap to a low-carbon research space would need simple monitoring, an example of which is presented here and documents the Tyndall Travel Tracker, incentives from international and national research platforms and funders, and a fundamental change in the research culture to align the walk with the talk. Such a change in practice would strengthen the trust of the public in research.

The Tyndall Travel Strategy aims to help individual researchers and the Centre as a whole to reduce their emissions through time. It includes a code of conduct, and a system to monitor and justify travel emissions and to support individual commitments to reducing emissions.

The Tyndall travel strategy aims to be simple, inclusive, self-guided, open and transparent, and driven by an overall goal. Link to the Tyndall Travel Strategy Document

Code of Conduct to support a low-carbon research culture:

  • Monitor and reduce. I will keep track of the carbon emissions of my professional activities, and set personal objectives to reduce them in line with or larger than my country’s carbon emissions commitments (see ’Set your targets below).
  • Account and justify. I will justify my travel considering the location and purpose of the event, my level of seniority, and the alternative options available.
  • Prioritise, prepare and replace. For activities that I organise, I will chose the location giving high priority to a low carbon footprint of travel of the participants, and I will encourage, incorporate and technically support online speakers and webcasts to reduce unnecessary travel.
  • Encourage and stimulate. I will resist my own FoMo (Fear of Missing Out) from not attending everything and work towards sensitizing others to the need of the research community to walk the talk on climate change.
  • Reward. I will work with my peers, Institute and Funders to value alternative metrics of success and encourage the promotion of low-carbon research as a realisable alternative to a high-carbon research career.

Before you travel: Check the decision tree below. It will help you identify low-carbon travel alternatives and maximize the benefits of your travel emissions.

Decision Tree