Meredith Moore and Tyler Swanson of iSEE met with Alicia Freter of the ACES Study Abroad office on August 31st to discuss options for developing a carbon offset program for students studying abroad in the college of ACES.
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Offset Emissions from Plane Trips (In Progress)
The iCAP 2020 objective 3.5 is to "Reduce net air travel emissions from FY14 baseline: 50% by FY24 and 100% by FY30." The responsible campus unit for championing this objective is iSEE.
This objective is the revision of 2015 iCAP, chapter 4, objective 1, is "Reduce air travel emissions from a new FY14 baseline by 25% by FY20, 50% by FY25, and 100% by FY30 ." Air travel is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. In the FY08 baseline carbon emission calculation for campus, 7 percent of the emissions were due to directly-financed air travel. While some reduction in the air travel can be achieved through increased teleconferencing, the remainder will need to be offset. There are some airplane companies that offer a self-selected option for paying an additional fee to offset the carbon emissions from each trip. This is an option that campus should implement for all air-travel funded by the University. Otherwise, campus units can buy carbon offsets from forthcoming virtual storeroom to reduce their carbon emission.
According to the transportation emissions data, air travel has been the biggest greenhouse source of transportation emissions, and these are hard to decrease. The campus mission often relies upon in-person visits to other towns, states, and countries. The most time-efficient travel mode is often air travel, and it is difficult to imagine that Illinois faculty, staff, and students could eliminate air travel entirely. International conferences, research, and study abroad have important impacts on the campus missions of scholarship, teaching, and service, including in the area of sustainability. However, there are certainly some situations when a plane trip can be replaced with a train trip or a videoconference, without sacrificing the impact of efforts to support the University’s mission. To encourage staff in these situations to reduce air trips, iSEE created some instructions to help them create teleconference meetings.
Additionally, to encourage a reduction in air travel, the campus could implement a program to provide incentives for departments that reduce their annual air travel emissions. The program would include a method to track annual airline travel emission estimates per department, and an annual report of the per capita airline travel emission estimates and the total estimate for the campus. Additional information regarding the reason for travel and the source of funding could be collected though the Travel and Expense Management (TEM) system. The program would also educate the campus community on the alternatives to air travel, such as trains and videoconferencing. Additionally, campus could improve the infrastructure supporting online conferencing and other virtual meeting technology.
For the remaining GHG emissions associated with air travel, we can encourage units to pay to offset the emissions. The amount of offsets purchased could be increased over time so that air travel emissions would be reduced by 25% from the FY14 value in FY20, 50% in FY25, and 100% in FY30 .
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