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Decarbonizing Transportation : Reducing Air Travel Emissions for UBC Faculty and Staff Elahi, Anam Imtiaz; Cruz, Citali; Ali, Hadir; Geiser, Hannah; Noureddine, Israa; Anand, Ravina 2020-04-10

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UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Sustainability Program Student Research Report Decarbonizing Transportation: Reducing Air Travel Emissions for UBC Faculty and Staff Anam Elahi, Citali Cruz, Hadir Ali, Hannah Gieser, Israa Noureddine, Ravina Anand University of British Columbia Course: GPP 581 Themes:  Climate, Transportation, CommunityDate: April 10, 2020 Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS Sustainability Program provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student research project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore, readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Sustainability Program representative about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report”. DecarbonizingTransportation: ReducingAir Travel Emissions forUBC Faculty and StaffG P P  5 8 1 :   B e h a v i o r a l  I n t e r v e n t i o n  P o l i c y   P r o p o s a lC L I E N T :U B C S E E D SAnam ElahiCitali CruzHadir AliHannah GieserIsraa NoureddineRavina AnandS u b m i s s i o n  D a t eA p r i l 1 0 , 2 0 2 0T a b l e  o f  C o n t e n t sUBC faculty and staff report that thefollowing    factors prevent them from reducing theirbusiness air travel: tenure requirements,  lack ofawareness of teleconferencing options on-campus,low quality of virtual communication experiences,lack of training on equipment, and lack of IT supportand access on campus.Ta b l e  o f  C o n t e n t s34A n a l y s i s  a n d  P o t e n t i a lO u t c o m e sB a c k g r o u n d  R e c o m m e n d e d  I n t e r v e n t i o n s7I m p l i c a t i o n s  a n d  S c a l i n g 89A p p e n d i xB a c k g r o u n dBackgroundIn a study conducted by the University of Montreal, it was determined that 67% of thetrips made by faculty members were to attend conferences while 18% were forconducting research, and the rest were for other meetings (Wynes & Donner, 2018).While to offset its air travel, UCLA developed a program that requires travellers tobalance their emission footprint by paying a fee and then by investing the fundscollected from both domestic ($9) and international ($25) flights into green projects.These funds are then awarded annually to local on-campus projects in order to mitigateair travel emissions (UCLA, 2020). This policy was deemed problematic as it inherentlyassumes that faculty want to reduce carbon emissions but are unable or unwilling to doso through reducing their actual air travel and that all would be well aware of the off-sets they are expected to make due to travel. It is also not the most effective policy if theaim is to eventually reduce air travel, as it just offsets the emissions rather than tacklingthe cause of emissions in the first place. However, no data on the effectiveness of thepolicy was available to measure its success.Ghent University in Belgium created a “sustainable travel policy” by classifying cities as“green cities” and “orange cities” (Ugent, 2019). Green cities are those that take lessthan 6 hours to reach by bus or if the travel time by train is less than that it would takefor a flight. Orange cities, on the other hand, are cities that take less than 8 hours toreach by train. University booking systems are programmed to only show train or busoptions. If faculty/staff still opt for a plane, then the university requires CO2-compensation for trips taken. The university collaborates with CO2logic and gets todecide which projects will receive their financial support. For any flights not bookedthrough the university system, there is a fixed CO2 compensation of 50 euro charged. Inthis case, the policy is very effective due to the geographical location of the universityand how close it is to other countries in Europe, which makes it possible to reachmultiple countries/locations using buses or trains. However, this policy can beproblematic because it makes the following assumptions: everyone is willing to spend6-8 hours on a train, and everyone is physically capable of travelling via a train. But thispolicy is restricted to Europe and cannot be applied in Canada or many North Americanregions for scale due to its geographical location and the distances that exist from cityto city.The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has developed specific policies, whichpromote conferencing and the use of alternative modes of transportation whennecessary (Tyndall, 2020). They achieve this through a three-stage/step process,wherein the first is a decision making stage that uses a decision-tree to providealternatives to air travel. The second is a monitoring stage which encompasses a scoringtool that asks staff to conduct a monthly survey that records travel and asks for travelinformation and justification for the trip. Last, is a commitment stage where the staff issigned up to a minimum commitment of reduction (they can opt-out or commit tosomething bigger). The assumption, in this case, is that due to the type of theinstitution and its focus on climate research means that their employees are more likelyto be engaged in such policies while the same can’t be said for other institutions, whichwouldn't necessarily have the same commitment or level of knowledge from faculty toreduce emissions. Thus, due to the type of institution this is, this policy can prove to bevery effective; however, no data on the actual offsets created by the policy is availableto measure its relative success.Page 3Target Behaviour:Reduce the air travelof faculty throughbehaviouralinterventions andpossible policychange.R e c o m m e n d e d  I n t e r v e n t i o n s  ( 1 )P r e - B o o k i n g  F o r mAir travel to business conferences, symposia and workshops should be treated as a lastresort, and this is a shift that will require behavioural changes from faculty and staff. It’srecommended that an online quiz be integrated at the point of booking travel in the UBCConcur and/or Direct Travel booking systems. The quiz will ask faculty/staff to answerquestions about the purpose of their travel in order to demonstrate that they haveconsidered other options (i.e., public transportation, video conferencing), and to justify whyair travel is an absolute necessity (see Appendix A). This recommendation utilizestransparency and salience to nudge faculty and staff into considering alternative options toair travel at the point of booking. By making alternatives more obvious, transparent andavailable, the form invites people to pause and genuinely consider them, making air travel alast resort that gets selected only once other options have been exhausted because they’renot viable.A randomized control trial (RCT) will test the effectiveness of the intervention over thecourse of one academic year. The RCT will involve the quiz being implemented on acontrolled group of Concur and Direct Travel accounts only. These accounts will be selectedusing a systematic random sampling method that includes all UBC faculty and departments.Comparing the travel decisions of this group to those who do not use the quiz will identifywhether the behavioural nudge results in more people selecting alternatives to air travel. Asample of this form is available in the appendix, page 9. Behavioural Interventions (1)Page 4R e c o m m e n d e d  I n t e r v e n t i o n s  ( 2 )C r e a t i n g  a  G H G  E m i s s i o n s  W a r n i n g  i n  t h e   G r a n t s  &F i n a n c i a l  S e r v i c e s  W e b s i t e  P o p - u pWhile professors can keep track of their travel expenses in the Financial Services website,their GHG emissions contributions are not tracked and often remain unnoticeable, as aremost environmental problems. Including a pop-up window or a banner on top of theFinancial Services website that clearly outlines their updated GHG emissions as anotherexpense would make information salient. This tool would allow faculty to visualize theirenvironmental impact per grant and keep track of it every time they visit the financialservices website.The implementation of this intervention would require support from the UBC FinancialServices Department to allow the inclusion of the banner or pop-up window on theirwebsite. Similarly to the previous intervention, an RTC would be conducted to assessintervention over a year per grant. In this case, the control group and experimental groupwould be assessed based on the emissions associated with the grants.  The expectedoutcome would be to find that those under the experiment would have lower GHGemissions. A sample of what this would look like is available in the appendix, page 11. Behavioural Interventions (2)Page 5R e c o m m e n d e d  I n t e r v e n t i o n s  ( 3 )U B C  T e n u r e  C o n t r a c t sAs per the UBC policy “The Professoriate Stream: Criteria for Tenure and Promotion” and“Part 4: Conditions of Appointment for Faculty July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2019”, in order tosecure tenure, teaching faculty are to fulfil the criteria of ‘Scholarly Activity’ and‘Educational Leadership,’ which expects faculty members to participate or organize“conferences, programs, symposia, workshops and other educational events on teachingand learning locally, nationally and internationally.” This places pressure on junior facultymembers in their positions as Acting Assistant Professors and Assistant Professors, to travelmore to gain peer reviews and references; organizing and attending academic conferencesand symposiums to help build themselves a network within their area of expertise. Thispolicy is currently held by the UBC Human Resources and the Office of Provost - VicePresident Academic.Instead of promoting attendance of conferences, the university should amend, Part 4:Conditions of Appointment for Faculty, and give the option of video-conferencing and otherdigital alternates to the faculty within the current policy. This would help faculty membersknow that the university supports travel alternates, which would encourage them to planevents and secure funding through utilizing technology and other resources. The universityshould replace the wording of ‘Conference Participation (Organizer, Keynote Speaker, etc.)’from its Scholarly and Professional Activities marking criteria and instead use “ConferenceParticipation (Organizer, Keynote Speaker, etc.) through video-conferencing technology,” topromote an alternate route of action.Policy ChangePage 6A n a l y s i s  a n d  P o t e n t i a l  O u t c o m e sA n a l y s i s  a n d  P o t e n t i a l  O u t c o m e sThe following metrics will be used to measure the effectiveness of the quiz: 1) the total businessairfare ($) spent by faculty/staff and 2) the number of airplane trips booked on Concur and/orDirect Travel (found within Air Travel Database). The intervention will be considered a success iffewer airplane trips are taken by faculty/staff, thereby decreasing total campus GHG emissionsthat result from business air travel. The expected outcome is that post-intervention, fewerfaculty/staff members will be travelling by air to business events and instead, there will be anincrease in the use of alternatives such as public ground transportation and/or on-campus videoconferencing options. Currently, faculty/staff often book travel on independent websites insteadof Concur or Direct Travel, so ensuring that all business travel is booked through these UBCdatabases is one anticipated challenge of implementing this recommendation and tracking itssuccess.For the inclusion of the GHG emissions tracker per grant in the Financial Services website, themetrics to evaluate the success of the intervention would consist of evaluating the counterfactualbetween the expenses on flights per grant before and after the intervention. Additionally, wewould also evaluate the counterfactual between professors that participated in the program andthose who did not. The intervention would be considered a success if there is a decrease in the airtravel expenses resulting in a decrease of total campus GHG emissions that can be attributed tothe participation of the program. Considering the changes in travel habits with COVID-19, it maybe challenging to isolate the impact of the behavioural intervention.For the tenure policy change recommendation, we suggest evaluating the flight expenditures perjunior faculty member before and after the policy change is implemented. This can further becompared against any observable changes in the behaviour of faculty members who hold tenurepositions in comparison to others. This policy change will constitute success if the air travelexpense reported by the junior faculty members, who await tenure positions, is less than theamount they were reporting before the policy was implemented. However, as mentioned earlier,considering the current COVID-19 situation, the impact of the policy change would be difficult toevaluate and ascertain in complete isolation.Page 7I m p l i c a t i o n s  a n d  S c a l i n gI m p l i c a t i o n s  a n d  S c a l i n gThese interventions would rely solely on the receptivity of academics,faculty, and researchers to these nudges. Once having conducted bothtrials on a sample-sized control group, it can be derived whether therewas a perceivable change in behaviour due to the nudge, or if bothbehavioural interventions had no significance on participants' choice. Ifdeemed successful, implementation of these behavioural interventionswould mean future policy amendments are to be considered and/orimplemented. Therefore, faculties would need to provide policies thatallow professors or staff to exercise the checklist and/ or financialservices pop-up on GHG emissions before agreeing to participate in aconference. The intervention could initiate from professors and staff andthen expand to student researchers who participate in conferencesabroad. It can also start from certain departments and scale-up tobecome a university-wide policy that would be exercised by universityprovosts, students, clubs, and professionals. Due to the interventionbeing online it would be easy to administer and scale-up. When it comesto accessibility, faculty members, researchers, and staff can access theseinterventions whether abroad or on campus.Some challenges that are anticipated in adopting these behaviouralinterventions are the lack of video conferencing systems, the difficulty ofpaying carbon offsets, privacy issues, and competitiveness. If UBC wereto adopt this intervention to reduce carbon emissions would it affect itscompetitiveness in tenure-ship. This can be foreseen as a potentialproblem that needs further research and analysis.Page 8A p p e n d i xP r e - B o o k i n g  F o r m ( 1 )Page 9A p p e n d i xP r e - B o o k i n g  F o r m  ( 2 )Page 10A p p e n d i xG r a n t s  &  F i n a n c i a l  S e r v i c e s  W e b s i t e  P o p - u pWARNING!Based on the flights you've taken in the last 24months, your total GHG  emissions are nowXXX.Your footprint is now 150% higherthan the rest of the departmentsaverage. Page 11R e f e r e n c e sPage 12Air Travel Mitigation Fund. (n.d.). Retrieved from travel policy. (2019, May 2). Retrieved from, (S). & Donner, S.D. (July 2018). Addressing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Business-Related AirTravel at Public Institutions: A Case Study of the University of British Columbia. Pacific Institute of ClimateSolutions.Academic Flying. (2020, April 8). Flying Less: Reducing Academia's Carbon Footprint. Retrieved from


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