As an international sales manager I have to travel within Europe and Africa regularly… This means a lot of air travel.
So, the dilemma I face is;
While I work to make SDG7 a reality by making grids smarter and greener, at the same time I have a huge carbon footprint by flights.
I know many other people have this “flight dilemma”, do you?
This issue is also related to SDG13 (Urgent action to combat climate change).* How?
The CO2 budget per capita target to achieve the Paris Agreement goals and stop climate change has to reach approximately 2 tonnes per year per capita. And by April this year, only on flight emissions, I have “spent” 6,5 tCO2. –> I am on my way to use 10x this budget on 2017! I wish those were my sales figures… (and not having a car does not solve the issue)
But the are several ways to tackle the dilemma:
1. Obviously, to reduce flight travel, or at least make it more efficient?
I always try to avoid travel if technology allows to improve communication (for example videoconferencing). But some site visits and face-2-face meetings are necessary.
Using slow travel such as train has a smaller impact, if possible. Technology also complements slow travelling with higher connectivity.
2. To offset and compensate the carbon footprint?
The possibility to offset the carbon emissions of flight is offered already by airlines (for example United)
This should be done for personal tourism trips (or any middle class person will be above the budget with one holiday abroad).
But also companies that support Climate Change Action could compensate for their employee travel. (Or they take the next approach;)
3. To use “ERROEI” calculations?
Emissions Reduction Return on Emissions Invested. The concept means considering the return on emissions reduction or offset that is reached with business travel. In my case, if my travel emissions invested is 4 tCO2 but the resulting project reduces 100 Tn CO2 per year, the return on emissions invested will make it reasonable.
The take-away is, if there is no impact or ERROEI is negative, then the travel is a no-go.
In summary, living the sustainability value is not an easy task, the only way might be with coherence and innovating approaches.
*It is also a religious concern, if you are a catholic and take encyclical letter “Laudato Si” from Pope Francis seriously. But that is subject of another post.