UBC Undergraduate Research

Emissions from UBC air travel Nabors, Noni

Abstract

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is increasingly recognized as a necessary step towards mitigating climate change (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2016). The University of British Columbia (UBC) has pledged to reduce GHG emissions by 67% by 2020 compared to 2007 levels (UBC CAP 2010). Currently UBC is lacking a program to mitigate emissions from air travel. Air travel produces 2% of global emissions, but this number is expected to increase (Edwards et al., 2016). The goal of this project was to quantify air travel emissions from five UBC Vancouver Departments (Geography, Psychology, Theatre & Film, Chan Centre for the Performing Arts and the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability). A carbon calculator was created, and air travel information from an 18-month period was analyzed. In total, 709 trips were made with total emissions of 1070.25 tCO₂e. For reference, emissions from the Geography building are estimated to be 4.5-6 tCO₂e for the same period (Jamee DeSimone, personal communication, Nov 2016). Many of these trips were indirect (i.e. with layovers). Had the trips been direct, emissions would have been 981.93 tCO₂e. The primary trip purpose was to attend a conference (412), followed by travel done by non-UBC travellers (144), for example a guest lecturer at UBC. Most trips (609) were economy class. Average trip emissions were 1.51 tCO₂e, though this varies between departments. IRES reported the highest average trip emissions with 2.02 tCO₂e, while Psychology reported average trip emissions of 1.29 tCO₂e. It is recommended that economy class tickets be purchased for all UBC trips, and that direct flights be purchased whenever available. This will ensure that individual trip emissions are kept to a strict minimum. Furthermore it is recommended that trips be consolidated into fewer multi-purpose trips. Lastly the nature of non-UBC travellers work at UBC should be investigated, as they account for one fifth of total emissions. 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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