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 two meetings (Kick-Off held in Norrköping, Sweden, 11th - 13th October 2017, General Assembly held in Copenhagen, Denmark, 16th - 17th October 2018). 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. Distance travelled and metric tons of CO2 were normalised and presented in Figures 1 and 2.

Key messages:

    • 86 % of meetings have been held online compared to 14 % in-person meetings that required travel (Fig. 1)
    • Online participation by UCO in 2017 led to less metric tons of CO2 (Fig. 2)
    • More partners travelled primarily by train in 2018 than in 2017

 The percentage of online meetings
Figure 1. The percentage of online meetings, (in green) compared to the percentage of in-person meetings requiring travel by consortium partners (in grey).

Normalised values for metric tons of CO2
Figure 2. Normalised values for metric tons of CO2 and distance travelled per partner (can include more than one traveller), for the project's Kick Off meeting in Norrköping, Sweden. Green bars indicate the participants travelled by train. UCO did not travel and participated online.

Normalised values for metric tons of CO2
Figure 3. Normalised values for metric tons of CO2 and distance travelled per partner (can include more than one traveller), for the project's General Assembly meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark. Green bars indicate the participants travelled by train.










Climate Sustainability Plan

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 to the carbon footprint as (a) Electricity/energy use within institutions (b) Mobility and Travel and (c) IT services. Within AQUACLEW, 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 %).
  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.
  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.
  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
  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.

Climate Sustainability Performance Indicators

  1. CO2 saved by shorter flights, train use and reduced travel
  2. Number of online meetings
  3. Number of online conference presentations

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.