The COP27 carbon calculator aims to reduce the “obscene” emissions from travel from the event | Tech US News


A team of researchers at University College London, led by Bartlett Professor Priti Parikh, has developed an open source calculator that allows those traveling from the UK to Egypt for COP27 to assess, reduce and offset the carbon footprint of their journey.

Designed to be free and easy to access, the calculator is presented in the form of a spreadsheet that determines the emissions associated with different routes and forms of transport to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, so that travelers can make an informed choice.

Screenshot of the COP27 carbon calculator by UCL researchers
UCL researchers have created a carbon calculator for those traveling to COP27

The project is a response to the widely reported news that last year’s COP26 in Glasgow had the largest carbon footprint of any Conference of the Parties (COP) to date, with 75 percent international flights.

“It’s obscene to think about all these climate conferences and how many emissions are produced as a result of travel,” Parikh told Dezeen.

“There is therefore a growing imperative to measure, minimize and offset the carbon footprint of the COP to ensure that conference attendees, in their work to combat climate change, do not inadvertently exacerbate it.”

Attending generates practically less than one percent of emissions

In line with this call for transparency, all the data behind the calculator is publicly available, breaking down everything from the electricity consumption of local rail networks to the different types of jet engines, fuels and aircraft used on the different routes.

Before users can figure out the footprint of their trip, the calculator asks them to consider attending the conference virtually as this generates only one-thousandth of the footprint of flying to Sharm El-Sheikh, according to the researchers.

“It’s not a zero-emissions option,” said Parikh, who is the acting director of the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction. “With the software and the use of the Internet, there is an implication of emissions, but it is very low.”

Screenshot of the COP27 carbon calculator by UCL researchers
The calculator asks users to consider choosing digital delegation

If travel cannot be avoided, the toolkit suggests offsetting associated emissions using Gold Standard-certified offset schemes that not only remove CO2 from the atmosphere but also promote climate justice and resilience in the Global South.

This is one of the key themes of COP27, which is the first annual Conference of the Parties to be held outside Europe since COP22 in 2016 in Marrakech.

“This year, with the return of the COP to North Africa, climate justice will feature prominently in the discourse,” Parikh wrote. “The way we choose to offset the footprint of this COP should therefore reflect a commitment to fighting this problem.”

Taking the train through Milan has the lowest footprint

Parikh and his team also used the calculator to run through various scenarios and determine the most sustainable way to travel from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh.

One of its main findings, published in an accompanying report, is that the emissions savings that can be achieved by taking the train or coach are relatively small for this journey.

This is because to get to Egypt, some form of air travel is currently unavoidable due to geopolitical issues in nearby Libya and Syria, and the lack of transport connections from Europe.

Chart showing the carbon intensity of different travel routes from the UK to Egypt
Taking a train through Milan is the least emissions-intensive option

The biggest carbon savings could be made by traveling to Milan by train before taking a plane across the Mediterranean, Parikh said, which would reduce the carbon footprint of the trip by 40 percent compared to taking a direct flight.

“In these cases, the modest benefits of traveling partially by train or coach are offset by the significant time and financial investment of such travel,” he wrote.

“The UNFCCC should therefore consider the availability of non-air transport links when choosing the location of future POPs.”

“While hosting the COP outside of Europe is important to promote equity among member states, Sharm el-Sheikh’s particular location among conflict-torn countries makes reducing its significant carbon footprint nearly impossible outside of choosing to digital delegation”.

Parikh and two other UCL researchers will still attend COP this year. But they will take different measures to reduce their carbon footprint by reducing the number of attendance days and monitoring the rest virtually, traveling in groups and finally offsetting the associated emissions.

His hope is that a growing number of environmental professionals will join the conversation, either virtually or in person.

“I wish more architects had attended,” Parikh said. “I think there is an opportunity for architects in the Global North to learn from architects in the Global South.”

“If we could facilitate that dialogue between architects across borders, I think there are many valuable lessons to be learned from looking at buildings differently, looking at materials and local craftsmanship.”

The top photo by Kristina Loburets shows a plane taking off from an airport in Egypt.

COP27 is being held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 6 to 18 November 2022. See the Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.


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