Less emissions from business trips: An open letter to the Univeristy of Freiburg

Petition is directed to
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
364 Supporters
18% achieved 2.000 for collection target
  1. Launched 28/10/2019
  2. Collection yet 3 weeks
  3. Submission
  4. Dialog with recipient
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Dear Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Schiewer,

Dear members of the Senate,

Dear members of other executive committees of the University of Freiburg,

with this letter, we, as members of the University of Freiburg, request, that the university advances its activities concerning the sustainable use of resources and climate change action, particularly regarding business trips and takes a leading role among universities in this matter.

Substantial reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in all of society is required to fulfill the resolutions of the Paris Agreement and keep our responsibility towards future generations. More and more corporations and major players in society recognize their duty in this regard. Scientists have a special responsibility as being familiar with scientific work and as trusted advisors in society. Unfortunately, we as scientists emit very high levels of greenhouse gases per person through travelling to conferences, workshops, project meetings, and field research. A conference round-trip from Freiburg to Atlanta via a direct flight from Frankfurt, causes around 3 tons of CO2 -equivalent (CO2e) (Emissionsfaktoren nach Umweltbundesamt 2018).

To reach the reduction target of the Paris Agreement, Germany must reduce its annual CO2e emissions per capita from currently 11.6 tons to less than 1 ton CO2e per person and year until 2050. The described trip to Atlanta would by far exceed the calculated annual budget of one person. Our current carbon footprint contrasts sharply with the necessary reductions of greenhouse gas emissions which has been emphasized prominently and publicly by 26 800 German-speaking scientists in a letter of endorsement to the Fridays For Future movement (Scientists for Future 2019). Business trips play an imperative role for the overall emissions of universities. The ETH Zürich, for example, states, that more than half of the university CO2e emissions are caused by business trips – 93 % of those through flights (ETH Zürich 2019). Business trips therefore must be in focus when managing reduction efforts.

Right now, the University of Freiburg – in contrast to many other colleges and universities in Germany and abroad – is lagging behind in its efforts to mitigate climate change, which is incompatible with its public responsibility and dedication to younger generations.

The signatories of this letter therefore request the executive committees of the University of Freiburg to:

  • present clear guidelines and regulations in order to reduce the emissions caused by business trips. The necessary dialogue and participative development of clear, verifiable and binding (reduction-)rules should be accomplished within a year. All employees must be integrated in the process.

  • publish the result of this process in a transparent way, also to the public and civil society.

  • take action in the regional-, national- and European decision-making fora and advocate for regulations favoring climate mitigation and adaptation, for example the state law regulating travel costs at the university.

This open letter and all signatures collected (until that point) will be handed over to the members of the senate on the 17th of December 2019.

I, as a member of the University of Freiburg, hereby support the above stated demands.


With our demands, we aspire a stronger reflection of the topic of climate-conscious business trips (see the example of Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft Freiburg 2019). This could possibly include giving up flight trips over certain distances or traveling durations. Whether the compensation of CO2e-emissions is a reasonable and doable cause o action, has to be discussed, taking into account the local, social aspects of such measures.


Thank you for your support, Mareike Blum from Freiburg
Question to the initiator

This petition has been translated into the following languages

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Here are some examples of other Universities that are more advanced in the debate about academics flying less 1) German Universities: https://climatewednesday.org/selbstverpflichtung/ 2) University of Lund, Sweden: https://www.staff.lu.se/article/heads-should-help-reduce-flying http://www.kimnicholas.com/academics-flying-less.html 3) University support for Web-Conferences and online meetings: e.g. University of Heidelberg (and many others) https://www.uni-heidelberg.de/studium/imstudium/elearning/adobeconnect.html

No CONTRA argument yet.

Why people sign

  • 2 days ago

    I take the initiative to make conscious decisions in keeping my travel emissions as low as possible, and I would appreciate it if this was considered the default approach while being realistic.

  • 5 days ago

    Climate policy needs to be mainstreamed into all facets of policy, including at educational institutions. As an institution that recognizes climate change as a threat, Uni Freiburg should also act to address its contributions to it.

  • 8 days ago

    Climate change and being a part of what is so important to me

  • 9 days ago

    Because I care about the future of this planet and environment friendly travel plans are possible, but sadly not (always) preferred by the University.

  • 9 days ago

    I lay in bed at night, anxious and unable to sleep, from eco-anxiety. I worry about the breakdown of civilization that will occur in the Global North (where I am lucky enough to have citizenship), as massive numbers of climate refugees push governments and the political climate further and further towards the extreme right. I worry about the loss of productivity of agriculture, and the spread of disease, and the wildfires that are now only harming Mediterranean climates but may come to the Black Forest like Lyme-disease carrying ticks already have. I worry a lot. I feel like - individually - I try to behave as responsibly as possible. And, it feels painfully like betrayal when the groups that are most-aware (like a University) and most-able (again, like a University as big as the Uni Freiburg) do not adjust our policies to match. The point is: when I booked a return from a conference recently, our travel agency offered me a ticket including a flight from Zurich to Basel. That this sort of ridiculous ticket is being offered at all, suggests that there may be people who would accept such a proposal. We need a very clear policy implemented for all work-related travels that somehow includes the damage caused by various travel methods into their costs. (That is, if our governments won't internalize the externalities of climate change, we need to do it for them...) If we want to claim to be at the fore-front of knowledge, we can't act like we're clueless.

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