Low Carbon Travel at the TUs?
Is the TU/e still missing out? Two years after publishing our first and second blog comparing the lack of TU/e’s travel policy to other Dutch universities’ approach, TU/e has yet to publish a sustainable travel policy.
We often hear that part of the problem is the nature of our University. TU/e, being a university of technology has an exceptional position. Research or international conferences taking place in foreign countries, would limit the options for the university to steer the travel behaviour of its employees. Therefore, in this part of the series, we focus on what we can learn from other Dutch universities of technology.
In 2020, we already published about WUR’s actions. The university stated in their mobility policy: “In principle, all business trips will be taken using public transport, unless the destination is difficult to reach by train and the travel time is twice as long as it would be if the employee’s own mode of transport were used.”
As a fundament for their mobility policy, the university has chosen the three S’s of the Trias Mobilica: Scale Down, Switch and Sustain. In their mobility policy, they link this to a direct, measurable goal: CO2 emissions related to travelling should decrease by 2% each year. WUR has also planned and implemented a list of instruments to help its employees travel more sustainably, such as facilitating and encouraging teleconferences, and reaching pricing agreements for train tickets within Europe.
The University of Twente is also moving towards low carbon travel. It promotes train travel over flights. On their website, the university states “[t]he train is the standard mode of travel for destination below 800 km or destinations that can be reached within 10 hours”. To support their employees’ travel mode decisions, the TU Twente developed a train map with the locations for which the train is the default option.
Figuur 1: Train zone map by the University of Twente. Source.
To further support its employees, TU Twente also offers a personalized NS business card. With this card, international train tickets can be booked online and displayed in the NS app, making printing unnecessary.
The Delft University of Technology, too, has published some statements on low carbon travel and made steps towards transparency.
Their website shows the impact of business travel in their total emissions. They have kept a record of these measurements, with positive progression: in 2018, employees flew the equivalent of a thousand times around the globe; this had reduced by 10% in 2019. This, of course, drastically changed due to COVID-19.
The University makes great promises, hinting at a new travel policy to ensure the number of flights does not rise to 2019-levels. The University plans to do this by promoting online rather than in-person meetings and trains travel for relatively short distances in Europe (up to 8 hours of travel, or less than 700 km distance). Additionally, they promise a carbon compensation for long-haul flights. Though less concrete than the other universities, TU Delft is clearly moving towards low carbon travel.
And the TU/e?
In recent years, the TU/e has published about low carbon travel. They reflect on how business travel has a major impact on the university’s CO2 footprint. At the same time, the University laments the difficulty of using modes of transport different than air travel.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of ambition and concrete promises. The University is cheerful about “a movement among academics that consciously chooses whether or not to travel (teleconferencing), or that the location / conference can be reached by train instead of by plane”. The sole promise on the website reads: “This initiative will be further developed in the coming year and may form the basis for a sustainable business travel policy”. Now, we are happy to see the TU/e is hopeful about our initiative (seeing as we are directly linked on the website), but TU/e’s commitments to low carbon travel and support for its community are long overdue.