I just submitted a research grant application, "Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations: from data to practice", to the Swedish Energy Agency in response to their call "Contribute to the creation of a transport efficient society".
The application is written together with my colleagues Elina Eriksson, Björn Hedin and Jarmo Laaksolahti but it is also written with our new collaborator Markus Robért who works at the Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the KTH School of Architecture and the Built Environment. We got a tip-off some time ago to get in touch with Markus through Göran Finnveden who is vice-president for sustainable development at KTH, and, our collaboration with Markus has great promise. This application builds on work Markus has pursued for more than a decade, but it takes his work in a direction that he himself might not have thought of. Also, Markus is just one person but now he gets help from four others to take "his" research to the next level. To us, it's instead a great opportunity to explore an area we are interested in by cooperating with and building on work that someone else has already done for more than a decade.
The application has an abstract and while the abstract is correct, it does not really succeed in capturing what we feel are the most exiting and interesting aspects of this project:
Decreased CO2-emissions in flight-intensive organisations: from data to practice
In flight-intensive organizations, many employees travel both frequently and far - resulting in large CO2 emissions. At management level, there is often an awareness and a willingness to change, as expressed for example through internal climate goals. But at those levels in the organization where concrete decisions are made about when, where and how to travel, there is a lack of awareness and tools to manage these challenges. In this project, we will create and test practical tools to reduce travel-related CO2 emissions, thereby moving from words to action. By using a structured method in combination with analog and digital tools, the project will take stock, visualize, design, plan and mediate negotiations about departmental and individual CO2 emissions and the results will be followed up regularly. The project aims to give flight-intensive organizations greater opportunities to reach or exceed climate targets, thereby contributing to an energy-efficient and sustainable future.
Markus has developed a process management tool called CERO that is used to track and help organisations reach their emission targets (typically to reduce their emissions by 10-20% in a few short years). CERO is being implemented in a large and growing number of companies as well as in Swedish municipalities, counties and regions. One organisation that Markus works with is in fact KTH and he therefor has massive amounts of data about our travel and carbon emissions (delivered directly from our travel agency). KTH the goal of reducing its CO2 emissions by 20% between 2016 and 2020 and has contracted Markus/CERO to help make that happen. KTH is a tough case though as almost all (90+%) of our CO2 emissions from travel comes from flying. While Markus currently works with a top-down process, it's very hard for KTH centrally to have a say in the travel habits of different departments and individual researchers - and that's where our application enters the picture:
We will in this project use a CO2 currency and a workshop methodology to reach departments and individual researchers and encourage them to reflect on how they should proceed in order to reduce their travel emissions - without compromising the quality of their research.
Our process will make it possible for individuals to place their own travel in a larger context and it also focuses on equality and justice by implicitly or explicitly asking questions of the type "Who flies?", "How much?", "Who will reduce his/her flying?" and "How can this happen?".
There are several things that are neat about this application. One of them is that Markus runs an annual symposium for the 80-ish organisations that currently uses CERO. It's a lot of work for him to organise the symposium alone, but we can help him out and this project would of course be part of the program during the three years that it would run. Another neat thing is that besides presenting the results of the project in (open access) journal articles, we have pledged to only present the results at conferences that we can attend without flying there. That's a first for me and it basically means that we will only present it in Europe (and preferably mid- to northern Europe at that).
If there ever was an application where it felt like we hit all the marks, well, then this is it. We were definitely on a high as we handed in the application. The Energy Agency will hand out funds for at least 10 projects and we have so much faith in our application that we were confident there just can't be 10 other applications that are better than our. We hope.