In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted international travel, Fund personnel travelled 124,716,761 miles, equivalent to flying 5,008 times around the earth. This equals to an annual carbon footprint of 10.6 tons of CO2 per employee, more than double the per capita emissions of a person in Portugal. In 2019, pre-pandemic business air travel represented an estimated 64% of the Fund's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To reduce the environmental impact of Fund operations, the Managing Director and Staff Association have jointly called on the Fund to carry forward the environmental and efficiency gains and lessons learned over the past two years and to reduce inessential travel as travel operations resume in the "new normal."
To support institutional carbon reduction objectives, we propose two interventions:
- Make emissions information visible at the ticket selection stage, so that business travelers can take into account the associated GHG emissions in the same way that they currently consider price and travel time when selecting flight options.
- Create a dashboard for management and departmental travel approvers to give them greater visibility into institutional and departmental travel-related GHG emissions trends. The dashboard will also highlight practical emission reduction opportunities, and can inform travel planning and authorization, as well as measure progress toward sustainability objectives.
The proposed dashboard would show distances traveled and travel-associated GHG emissions for the institution and by department over time. Departmental data would include both actual GHG emissions, as well as normalized data recognizing that emissions are invariably a function of the distances between Washington and regional travel destinations. This data will be further broken down as follows:
• Volume of single-mission trips 3 days or less
• Volume of missions with five or more travelers
• Volume of mission travel in Economy for flights below 2750 miles (5 hours)
• Volume of travel for "conferences, seminars, workshops, and outreach"
• Comparison of actual emissions vs what they would be if we flew most efficient route for top 20 destinations
Making visible this GHG emissions impact, as well as the key variables that affect this carbon footprint, will provide fundamental information for institutional and departmental leadership to set emission targets that make sense given mission locations, business needs, and nature of travel. Leadership will be better informed and can more confidently choose to set emissions targets that are achievable. The analysis will also help to uncover areas of opportunity and provide a suite of options to help reduce the carbon footprint. Additionally, the dashboard will help track progress towards institutional carbon reduction objectives over time.
The tool will also allow for "what if" analysis to inform potential changes to travel practices and help identify incentives or disincentives for traveler behaviors. Sample questions that the tool will be able to answer include:
What might be the carbon savings if…
• flights below 5 hours (2750 miles) were taken in economy?
• 50% of single missions under 3 days were held virtually?
• 50% of missions for "seminars, outreach, workshops, and conferences" were done virtually?
• travelers flew the most direct route to top 20 destinations by department?
• each department reduced its distance traveled by 10%? 20%?
Partnering with subject matter experts across the institution, we plan to create a dashboard and analytic tools that will provide greater visibility, support decision making, and track progress toward institutional carbon reduction objectives. We will also explore with OBP how this initiative links with ongoing monitoring of travel budgets, with potential to link relevant data through future efforts.
The analytic tools and frameworks developed by the team can be used by other IFIs and UN agencies to help them better understand the anatomy of their air travel and the leverage they have to make it more efficient, and to support their decision-making to reduce the associated GHG emissions. We will work to design the solution from the beginning to allow it to be shared externally, should the Fund decide to do so.