UBC Graduate Research

Reducing Inter-Campus Air Travel Emissions Okwara, Chike; Somoye, Oluwadamilola; Eshraghi, Parisa; Ospina Lozano, Catalina


Air travel accounts for 12% of global transportation GHG emissions, and 2.5% of overall GHG emissions [1][2]. Aviation emissions comprises of operations and infrastructure processes such as: burning fuels, construction, and maintenance. However, more than 80% of the aviation emissions are from burning aviation fuel during air travel. This is especially problematic since emissions from air travel remain in the atmosphere for centuries. Current research along with Government intervention have attempted to solve this problem using technological innovation and policies. In particular, the Government of Canada and the Canadian aviation industry have developed Canada's Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Aviation [3]. In line with the Government of Canada, the University of British Columbia (UBC) created the UBC Climate Action Plan in 2010 to help combat air travel emissions, and other climate change related problems facing our environment [4]. The plan aims for a 100% reduction target in GHG emissions by 2050. Through the implementation of the UBC Climate Action Plan, UBC has developed various projects one of which is the SEEDS (i.e. Social Ecological Economic Development Studies) Sustainability program which is geared towards creating interdisciplinary collaborations between students, faculty, staff and community partners to find solutions to sustainability challenges both on and off campus. One of those challenges is high volume of air travel emissions from the domestic flights along the UBC Okanagan and UBC Vancouver route. Our SEEDS project aims to reduce these air travel emissions along the intercampus air travel route. To execute the project, we collaborated with UBC faculty, staff, and students as well as industry professionals from the BC Climate Policy Program. Using travel data containing UBC’s travel frequency as well as travel related financial activity, we sought to understand the impact of high travel frequency along the intercampus air travel route and identify the major root causes for this problem. This involved an investigation into the amount of GHG emission from this route, the different departments, and faculties responsible for high amounts of air travel between campuses, and the financial implications of their activities. From our study, we observed that the intercampus route accounts for ~17% of UBC’s overall travels in 2019 and a total CO2 emission of over 140 tCO2e (UBC’s 2019 total CO2 emissions was 17,700 tCO2e ), which was higher than the total of all other UBC domestic flights. On studying the travel behaviour of the subcategories (i.e. faculties and departments), we observed that for the faculties, the office of the VP Academic and Provost dominated for both campuses on the number of flights along the intercampus route in 2019. When looking at the departments with the highest frequency of travel, we observed significantly higher volume from the International Student Initiative; a similar trend was also observed in the financial analysis. We postulated that the higher frequency of travel from this faculty and department was because of an internal mandate for personnel to use the UBC-backed flight booking platform, Concur. Our findings helped identify the root causes for the high travel frequency, however there were some limitations with the datasets which could potentially affect the level of accuracy and precision with the analysis. Some of the limitations encountered are small sample size and ambiguity in data classification. Using our findings, we developed customized survey questions for travel behaviour surveys targeted at the faculties and departments with the highest frequency of air travel, to gain a more in-depth understanding on the problem. We also offered recommendations to subsequently reduce air travel emissions along this route and the aviation industry long term. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS 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 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 Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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