Covid-19 has caused widespread disruption to national and international travel patterns.  As restrictions begin to ease, the question arises whether mobility will return in the same form as before.  At the same time, national and international travel represents a significant contribution to European carbon emissions and requires a large behavioural change in travel habits.  Promoting better mobility, with less congestion and lower carbon emissions, is a key policy and research issue for the European Union.

Whilst travel is an essential part of academic research, project members feel it is essential for CRESTING to show leadership in acknowledging the role of project travel in increasing global carbon emissions, and engaging in action towards reducing these emissions. As a result CRESTING Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) Kieran Campbell-Johnston, Katelin Opferkuch, Santiago Perez, Heather Rogers and Anna Walker have facilitated the development of a travel policy to guide project members in their decision-making, encouraging a reduction in travel and low-carbon options.  In addition to the travel policy, the project aims to record and measure all CRESTING project-related travel as well as collect information on the barriers faced by individual ESRs when selecting the desired low-carbon travel option.

The project outlines its mission statement and internal code of conduct, which contains five guiding principles below.

Mission statement:

Acknowledging the sustainability challenges (as expressed in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)) and in particular SDG 13 on the climate emergency; we are committed to reducing and, if unavoidable, offsetting carbon emissions from project-related travel, in order to maintain the integrity of our sustainability research, while upholding the research and training goals of the Cresting ITN project.

Code of Conduct:

Reduce travelling and the footprint of travel in CRESTING-related events:

  1. Opt for online participation when possible and invite relevant guest speakers in the proximity of CRESTING events.
  2. Plan travel carefully and early: Try to combine travelling to several events or private vacation to minimise travel distances, as far as possible under the respective university administration. Aim to realise as much value as possible from travel experiences.
  3. Monitor and account for travel (justify): Record data on travelling in the travel emission calculator, and use the decision tree to record the decision pathway.
  4. Promote a low-carbon research culture internally and externally: Encourage low-carbon travelling options and online participation in the respective university and the CRESTING network. Lead by example to stimulate action for yourself and others.
  5. Offset carbon emissions as a last resort: After travel-related emissions have been reduced, offset unavoidable carbon emissions through a suitable offsetting scheme. In any case, aim for the mode of transport with the least emissions.

The Code of Conduct as well as accompanying travel support tools including a decision tree and a travel emission calculator can be found here.  Through extensive data collection on current travel behaviours and choices, CRESTING hopes to reduce overall travel, lower emissions by resorting to other modes of transport, monitor unavoidable emissions, and offset project travel emissions where possible.  The project further aims to explore existing barriers to low-carbon travel options, and the mechanisms that might be needed to implement a zero-carbon travel strategy for future EU Horizon2020 projects.