Taking emissions out of the air

18 December 2019

Jagstannarpåmarken. This roughly translates from Swedish as “I’ll stay on the ground”. The related concept of flygskam or “flying shame” is growing amongst the environmentally-aware. It’s one of the issues that I don’t think has permeated to the general public yet; the scale and speed at which western lifestyles need to change to be compatible with a world that stays within 2 degrees of warming.

As an environmental consultancy, we at Aether try to practice what we preach. We operate a Low Carbon Travel Incentive Scheme, rewarding staff financially when they travel by low carbon modes of transport for commuting or business travel. Emissions from flights dominate our company carbon footprint and have continued to increase over the last few years.

To some extent this is a reflection of projects that we work on each year, such as in the Caribbean or southern Africa. The first tactic is to reduce any travel, increasing video-conferencing. We haven’t yet declined a project solely because we would have to fly halfway around the world, but maybe we need to start considering the idea.

However, most of our flights are short or medium distance within Europe. It’s up to the staff travelling to decide how they want to get there, and I will always prefer getting the train.

It’s not always particularly easy; LOCO2 comes close but there is not yet a way to book all your train connections in one go as some train companies only accept direct bookings. The journey will usually take longer than flying (door to door) but it is much easier to work on a train than a plane. I’m no giant, but the extra legroom and space on trains is much more comfortable. Most trains have WiFi now so joining Skype meetings is possible on the move.

img_20171027_114243.jpg

A big issue is the cost – remember that story a couple of years ago about flying from Newcastle to London via Spain being cheaper than getting the train? Airlines don’t pay tax on fuel or VAT on tickets, whilst train companies do. Sidestepping the issue of fossil fuel subsidies for now, our financial director is on board and the costs of train travel are built into our travel budgets. On the plus side (apart from a lower carbon footprint), trains will take you into the centre of your destination, rather than having to pay for additional local transport to get to and from the airport. And if it’s a sleeper train, hotel costs can be saved too. For a TFEIP meeting in Zagreb I took the Eurostar to Brussels, an ICE to Zurich and then a sleeper to Zagreb. It was also the night of Eurovision and the victorious Ukrainians were very generous in sharing their medovuha with everyone!

Then there’s the softer side. I challenge anyone to argue in favour of plane food versus a dining car on a pan-European train. There’s no lengthy security check to go through on trains, and the whole journey is less stressful. With a bit of planning you can make the most of the route. For example, if I need to change train stations in Paris, I try and have coffee with a Parisian friend. When getting the train to Warsaw, Rich Claxton and I stopped overnight in Berlin, met up with some friends and explored the local bars. Returning recently from a meeting in Vienna, Rosie Brook and I had breakfast in Vienna, lunch in Frankfurt and dinner in Brussels. Mark Gibbs holds the current record at Aether for longest train journey, travelling from Oxford to Sofia in Bulgaria for an emissions inventory workshop.

It doesn’t always go smoothly, just as it doesn’t always go smoothly by plane. If a train gets cancelled or is so delayed that you miss your connecting train, it can be a scramble to find an alternative train or at worst an alternative flight.

It has its challenges, but personally, as much as possible, jagstannarpåmarken.

trainimg_20190128_095813.jpg

Note: for all advice you could possibly need about travelling long distance by train, check out the Man in Seat61.

See all news

Testimonial

Don't just take our word for it...

“I must congratulate each of you for your professional and tireless efforts. Let me point out that this has been the 'neatest' in-country review expert review team I have coordinated, and it has been a real pleasure.”

UNFCCC Secretariat

“A heartfelt thank you to all the Aether team for this very comprehensive review – this is certainly turning out to be one of the most beneficial capacity building projects I have ever been involved in.”

Saviour Vassallo, Senior Environment Protection Officer, Malta Resources Authority

“The Aether team were a joy to work with and I would recommend the consultancy - the service provided throughout the process was exceptional.”

Clare Bayley, Defra

“It is always an absolute pleasure working with Aether. I always know what is expected of me. Their work ethic is of a very high standard and projects are always handled in a very professional manner. I have learnt many skills in terms of project management, quality control and workshop training styles from Aether and I hope to carry these principles forward in my own work. I look forward to collaborating with Aether more in the future.”

Luanne Stevens, Gondwana

“Both the face-to-face training and the online version have been of high quality, with dynamic methods and a practical orientation that have allowed students to reach a solid knowledge base. The products have been delivered within the stipulated deadlines with an excellent quality and the team has always shown willingness to make adjustments according to the requirements of CONAF. We are very satisfied with the work. ”

Javier Cano Martín, Professional Unit for Climate Change and Environmental Services, CONAF (National Forestry Corporation), Chile

“Engaging Aether to support us to develop the first GHG Inventory System and first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for the United Republic of Tanzania has been a rewarding experience due to their high level of professionalism, creativity, timeliness and value for money. We will definitely consider Aether in our future initiatives.”

Abbas Kitogo, Programme Specialist Energy and Climate Change, UNDP Tanzania

“Saint Lucia embraces the professional approach with which this project was undertaken by Aether, particularly their ability to develop mentorship relations with local government experts. This provides a basis for ensuring that the pool of local experts remain engaged and recognized over successive processes.”

Annette Rattigan-Leo, Chief Sustainable Development and Environment Officer

“The professional service provided by your company was of very high quality and completed within agreed timelines.”

Matthew Dudley, UNFCCC Secretariat

“Aether is a great partner for work in the area of European Air Emissions. The team was committed, reliable, well organised and had a deep technical understanding and motivated other partners with their good spirit.”

Umweltbundesamt: Environment Agency Austria

“Professional team and very collaborative communication. Effective result in terms of suggestions for improvement in the quality of the inventory and proposals on how to streamline specific topics.”

Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research

Contact us

Get in touch

Call us on +44 1865 261 466, complete the short form below, or go to the Contact page

 Security code