June 27, 2023

UAntwerp takes the train to go abroad

International conferences, meetings, research, etc. For those working or studying at a university, travelling abroad is part of the deal. On the internet, a flight – often cheaply priced – is easily booked. However in the end, it is not the traveller but our planet that’s left with a sizeable bill. This is because aircraft emissions high in the sky are very harmful to the environment. Therefore, the University of Antwerp has decided to discourage unnecessary air travel and instead promote train travel as an environmentally responsible alternative.

Hamburg, Munich, Marseille, Manchester, Basel or Zurich – these are just a few cities that employees from the University of Antwerp will no longer travel to by plane as part of their work. The university’s Executive Board has decided that flying is no longer allowed to destinations that can be reached by train from Antwerp-Central station in less than eight hours, provided the traveller does not have to spend the night somewhere during the journey. For train journeys of up to ten hours, such as to Nice or Barcelona, the university also recommends taking the train, but this is not compulsory.

Subsidies for train tickets?

‘According to the baseline CO2 that was set for the year 2018, air travel by staff accounted for 2544.1 tonnes of CO2-eq emissions, corresponding to 6% of the university’s total footprint’, Matthias Verstraeten, climate coordinator at the University of Antwerp, says ‘With a stricter travel policy, we aim to reduce air miles by at least 30 per cent by 2030.’ For that reason, a hierarchy was created for all international travel by staff and students: avoid travel; reduce the demand for travel to and from the university; travel without flying; fly when there are no alternatives; and offset these emissions.

UAntwerp is also looking at whether the carbon compensation can be raised further to account for the ‘social cost of carbon’. The revenue from this could be reinvested by the university in its climate policy to, for example, contribute to the purchase of train tickets.

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