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Reduced air travel a must to achieve the University's climate goals

Published: 4 April 2022

Business trips by air are the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions for universities. During the pandemic, Luleå University of Technology reduced its emissions by more than 80 percent, due to reduced air travel, which shows that it is possible to conduct business digitally. Now Vice-Chancellor Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn wants all employees at the university to prioritise the most necessary air travel to keep greenhouse gas emission levels down even after the pandemic.

Luleå University of Technology and other universities play a central role in the work of counteracting climate change, partly by offering newly developed educations that generate the required competence to cope with the green transition, and partly through research that contributes to global societal benefits. Luleå University of Technology contributes greatly by being one of the leading players in the green transition in northern Sweden. But Sweden's universities also need to contribute to reducing the impact of their own operations.

Business trips by air will be halved by 2030

Luleå University of Technology's business trips by air generated 1,975 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019, where 40 percent of the emissions came from trips between Luleå and Stockholm. 53 percent came from business trips abroad. Luleå University of Technology has, as one of many universities, joined the Climate Framework and undertaken to set goals and action plans to contribute to a reduction in emissions in line with the 1.5-degree target. The goal is for the University's climate impact from business trips by air to be halved between 2019 and 2030, which corresponds to a reduction of 6 percent per year.

Prioritisation of business trips in the future

Advocating for optimised air travel is necessary to achieve the goal, but a challenge as it may conflict with the goals of increased collaboration and internationalisation, not least given the University's geographical location. Through an active prioritisation of which air travel is necessary and a continued application of digital meetings, even after the pandemic, it is possible for the University to contribute to a reduction of the climate impact from business travel by air.

– During the corona pandemic, we reduced our air travel by 80 percent, and we noticed that it was often possible to have meetings without traveling by air. There were good meetings and we got the result we wanted. So we know we can if we want to, now it's time to take advantage of these lessons. Allow travel, but be restrictive and prioritise, says Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn.

Hear what Vice-Chancellor Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn says about traveling for the University.

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Elin Bergström

Elin Bergström, Environmental coordinator

Phone: +46 (0)920 491857
Organisation: VSS-MOS, Professional Support