Climate-Friendly Research

The AQUACLEW project aims to improve the climate sustainability of European research projects. To do this, we will lead by example of how a European research project can reduce greenhouse emissions compared to traditionally run projects. We will promote climate friendly research, tips for how to reduce the carbon footprint of a project and some quantitative measures of how AQUACLEW has reduced its carbon footprint via our project and institutional webpages so that other international research projects can learn from our experience.

Current Status

We have had one meeting (Kick-Off held in Norrköping, Sweden, 11th - 13th october). The total metric tons of CO2 have been calculated by using mode of travel (plane, train, etc), place of departure/arrival, and distance travelled, per person travelling.

Key messages:

  • SMHI had the most people at the meeting (14 people), but they travelled mostly through walking, biking and some car travel (resulted in less that 0.0001 metrics tons of CO2).
  • UCO participated online (1 person)
  • GEUS travelled ~500km by train from Copenhagen (2 people).
  • UGR (1 person) and IRSTEA (2 people) had the most metric tons CO2 for their plane/train travel to Norrköping from Spain and France respectively.
  • Figure 1. The carbon footprint from partner travel to the project Kick-Off meeting, held in Norrköping, Sweden. The meeting was held from lunch to lunch (11 - 13th October, 2017). The carbon footprint is calculated using

    We aim to directly reduce our carbon footprint compared to traditionally run projects by:

    1. Holding two General Assemblies (GA) at the two most central hub institutions (TUDO Dortmund and GEUS Copenhagen) allowing train travel by 2 partners and shorter flights by other partners. This would reduce the carbon footprint of travel by 2100 tonnes CO2 (30 %). (KPI = CO2 saved by shorter flights, train use and reduced travel)
    2. Holding the final conference beside an existing event, preferably in a central European location. A suitable event and location will be decided during the project (for example with EGU, Vienna, where partner BOKU is certified for GREEN MEETINGs and is central to most of Europe). This can potentially reduce travel for both project internal and external attendees and thus reduce GHG emissions. (KPI = CO2 saved by shorter flights, train use and reduced travel)
    3. Stipulating the use of online meeting facilities or public transport for user co-development meetings and workshops as far as is feasible. Each workshop between 2 partners where travel is replaced by online facilities can reduce transport emissions by an average of 252 tonnes per participant. The project management will provide recommendations for best online web conferencing facilities and demonstrate their use to all project participants. (KPI = Number of online meetings)
    4. Encouraging dissemination via emerging online conferences (eg. International Electronic Conference on Water Sciences). This will need to be done parallel to traditional conferences for larger dissemination, but supporting new online conference forms may lead to them becoming more established among researchers in the future (KPI = Number of online conference presentations)
    5. Sourcing cloud computing facilities and data storage space from providers which use large shares of renewable energy.
    6. Addressing how individuals and institutes within the project can be encouraged to reduce their own carbon footprints by lifting up best examples among the consortium

    This last point will be done by compiling the information in Table 10.1 and providing this information online on the project website and promoting it at the GA meetings. By doing this, we hope to lift the status and awareness of reducing emissions. Indirectly, the project can potentially contribute to lower emissions by strategic dissemination of expected climate impacts, particularly in the media, but also towards decision makers. Project contributors are encouraged to keep this in mind when publishing climate change impact results during the project.

    Table 10.1 Measures to encourage reduction of carbon footprints.

    Sector   Individuals Institutions
    Buildings: Energy use comfort and electricity -Guidelines for how personal energy consumption can be reduced Quantify average energy use per institute, highlight best practice of leading institute
    IT-Services: Energy use of personal devices and servers -Guidelines for reducing online data footprints and energy efficient calculations Compare institutions IT energy use policies, highlight best practice of leading institute
    Mobility & Food: Commuting


    -Online count of bike, foot and public transport trips on project homepage. Prize for most trips and most improved Compare institutions policies, highlight best practice of leading institute


    Travel -Encourage participants to replace travel with online meetings where feasible

    -Provide project travel guidelines for long and short transport including link to online calculation of emissions

    -Provide link to hotel booking site with carbon emissions

    Compare institutions travel policies, highlight best practice of leading institute
    Events -See travel

    -Providing vegetarian as the default meal choice meals at events

    Compare institutions event planning policies, highlight best practice of leading institute

    An environmental officer will be appointed from among the project’s participants whose job it will be to oversee the project’s sustainability plan, monitor KPIs for project sustainability, provide guidelines and KPIs on the project website, and present results and engage project participants at each GA.

    The first step in reducing emissions is raising awareness of the major sources of research related emissions. We have identified the main areas in which research contributes greenhouse emissions as (a) Electricity/energy use within institutions (b) Mobility and Travel and (c) IT services.