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EGU to offset the travel emissions of every General Assembly participant

29 October 2019

As attendance at the EGU’s General Assembly continues to grow, with more than 16,000 scientists from 113 countries participating last year, so too does the meeting’s environmental impact.

To minimise the carbon footprint of Europe’s largest geoscience event, held in Vienna, Austria each spring, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) has already implemented extensive greening measures —and is pleased to announce even more.

“Next year the CO2 emissions of every participant traveling to and from the General Assembly will be offset,” says Susanne Buiter, Programme Committee Chair for the General Assembly 2020. “To the best of my knowledge, this will be a first for any major geoscience event.”

This development, approved by the Union Council in mid-October, builds upon a measure begun in 2018 that allowed participants to voluntarily offset their travel to the General Assembly through carbonfootprint.com. The EGU will calculate the new offsets based upon the distance attendees travel to and from Vienna from their work places.

The EGU will also continue to strongly encourage participants to travel to Vienna by train. For many attendees the trip will be more convenient thanks to the recent addition of an ÖBB overnight service from Brussels to Vienna as well as a planned service from Amsterdam to Vienna. Overnight trains from Zürich, for which SBB offers General Assembly participants a discount, already exist. There is also overnight service from Rome as well as numerous German cities, including Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Dusseldorf. Once attendees arrive in Vienna, EGU provides them with a local transit pass so they can easily take advantage of the city’s extensive public transportation network.

New greening initiatives at EGU 2020
Next year’s General Assembly, to be held from 3-8 May 2020, will also feature a number of new environmentally-friendly initiatives, including several inspired by members’ input. These measures will make it more convenient for participants to use bicycles to travel around Vienna and continue to directly reduce the carbon footprint at the meeting venue, the Austria Center Vienna (ACV).

“The EGU takes minimising the environmental impacts of the Union’s activities very seriously,” says EGU President Alberto Montanari. “As an organisation we have worked hard to reduce the footprint of the General Assembly while expanding the opportunities the meeting offers to participants.”

In collaboration with the ACV, the EGU has previously enacted numerous ongoing greening measures. These include replacing 7,000 bulbs with LEDs, installing solar collectors to provide hot water to all restrooms and kitchens, and modernising the facility’s ventilation system.

EGU’s greening measures extend to the signage, informational materials, and badges used at the meeting. Signs are typically re-used for three to five years; lanyards are made from 100% recycled PET; the programme is online only, eliminating the printed programme book; and EGU Today, the assembly’s daily newsletter, is now only distributed digitally. In 2020 the EGU hopes to eliminate the plastic sleeves on badges or, if this cannot yet be achieved, to collect and re-use badges the following year.

Reducing plastic and other waste
In the past few years, the General Assembly has also achieved an enormous reduction in plastic. “We began asking participants to bring their own water bottles for refilling at the fountains in the building,” Buiter says. This initiative eliminated 30,000 plastic water bottles in its first year. The EGU also replaced most plastic cups at the evening Networking Breaks with returnable glass bottles. But there is still progress to be made, says Buiter. “At last year’s meeting, participants still used more than 108,000 paper cups just for coffee and tea,” she says.

To reduce the need for single-use coffee containers, in 2020 EGU will expand its bring-your-own-mug campaign with the intent of phasing out disposable cups the following year. “We hope participants will support EGU’s efforts by using their own cups or buying a multi-use cup on site, and by promoting this campaign on social media,” says Buiter.

The EGU webstreams and archives a number of Union-wide events at the General Assembly for those who are unable to attend in person. These typically include the Great Debates, Union Symposia, the EGU awards ceremony and the Union medal lectures.

The EGU’s commitment to the environment extends well beyond the General Assembly, according to Executive Secretary Philippe Courtial. The EGU offsets all travel related to conducting Union business, including for office staff and Council meetings, and is taking measures to reduce the amount of plastic generated from exhibitions. “The EGU is dedicated to pursuing science for the benefit of humanity, so we strive to reduce the environmental impact of our activities every day,” says Courtial.

Contact

Susanne Buiter
EGU Programme Committee Chair
Programme.committee@egu.eu

Terri Cook
Head of Media, Communications and Outreach
European Geosciences Union
Munich, Germany
+49-89-2050-76340
media@egu.eu

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