Climate-friendly business trips

What flying to a conference in New York has to do with anaerobic digesters in Nepal

From participating in an academic conference in New York, to flying to the polar regions: air travel is a burden for the global climate. But scientific exchanges can’t always be done via Skype, and when it comes to distant destinations, train travel isn’t a realistic alternative. Accordingly, the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) is the first research institute to compensate for the CO2 emissions produced by business-related flights by cooperating with the non-profit climate protection organisation atmosfair.

In concrete terms, for every mile flown, the AWI will provide a certain amount of funding for anaerobic digesters in Nepal. In this way, for every business flight, the corresponding amount of CO2 emissions will be reduced elsewhere. And regardless of where in the world CO2 emissions are reduced, the positive effect on the CO2 budget is the same. “Our goal is to make working at the AWI as climate-friendly as possible – and that also includes business travel by plane. Unless and until nearly emission-free air travel becomes a reality, doing our part for climate protection in the form of compensation is the best solution,” explains Administrative Director Karsten Wurr.

Consequently, once a year the AWI provides the data on all business-related flights to atmosfair, who prepares an overview of the emissions and determines the compensation costs. In this regard, not only CO2 emissions, but also other pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulates, are taken into account. Depending on the type of aircraft and route, a flight from Bremen to New York and back produces roughly 3.5 tonnes of CO2 per person.

The climate protection contributions provided by the AWI go to an aid programme from atmosfair, which supports the construction of anaerobic digesters for homes in rural Nepal. A digester costs between 400 and 1000 euros – far too much for small farms. The AWI’s climate protection contributions are used to cover up to half of that price. Thanks to this support, together with a microloan from a local bank, even poorer families in Nepal can finally afford their own digester.