Göran Finnveden: Where should we go now?

The starting point of this blog is absolutely right: We need to talk more about travelling. Some points of departure for further discussion could be:

  • Globally we need to reduce emissions to something like 1-2 ton of CO2-equivalents per capita by 2050 in order to be in line with the 2-degree target.
  • For us in Sweden this corresponds to approximately 80-90 % reductions of our emissions related to consumption.
  • Travelling by air is expected to increase. Technical development alone is not likely to stop the increase in emissions. So the trend of increased travelling by air must be changed as well.
  • The emissions related to business travelling for KTH employees is approximately 1-2 ton of CO2 per person on average but is probably very unevenly distributed.
  • Travelling is part of the job as scientists. We need to do research and meet other scientists in order to exchange ideas, to learn and promote ourselves.
  • Some scientists think that travelling is a great part of the job and wouldn’t mind travelling more.
  • Some scientists would like to travel less.


At KTH we have as an environmental target that CO2-emissions from travelling should be reduced by 10 % between 2013 and 2015. I have heard people in leading positions at KTH question whether we should have this target. Instead, they argue, we should travel more to get more contacts and to promote our research which is necessary in order to get more citations and climb on international ranking list. I expect that there will be discussions when we will set new environmental targets later this year. But a discussion about travelling should not only be about how much we travel, but also why we travel, who should travel and how we travel. Maybe we should promote travelling among younger scientists who needs to meet people and get themselves known to colleagues. Maybe some older scientists could skip meetings where they meet the same people again for a discussion that probably could have been arranged in another way as well. Maybe some need to travel less in order to get a better working situation and be able to spend more time with their family.

For me it is clear that the emissions from travelling need to be reduced. This will not be easy, it takes time and it requires a learning process. We need to explore our possibilities of developing travel free meetings. We need to explore possibilities of low-carbon travelling like trains, also when travelling longer distances.


What is crucial now is to keep discussing travelling. We need people to start asking for possibilities for video conferences and train tickets. If it doesn’t work, let us know. If you are a researcher at KTH then talk to the environmental representatives at your schools. Send us an email at kth-miljo@kth.se or sustainability@kth.se. On a central level we can support, but the discussions and the actions need to be everywhere. What do you think the next steps should be? Should we develop an internal carbon tax at KTH? Should extra costs for train tickets and video conferences be covered somehow? Should we have an environmental target for greenhouse gases and if so what should it be? Can you study some of these issues in your research? Could some of these issues be integrated in your teaching? This blog is a great first step. It would be fantastic if we could continue the discussions in new fora and also create possibilities for a change.

/Göran Finnveden
Vice-president for sustainable development
Professor Environmental Strategic Analysis

2 thoughts on “Göran Finnveden: Where should we go now?

  1. David Nilsson

    Thanks Göran for bringin up the issue of incentives. Will KTH – or any other academic institution – soon be regarded as irrelevant if we reduced our travelling? Should we do it before anyone else? These are classical collective action dilemmas.
    But I think you’re on to something really important when you ask WHO should travel, and WHY? We should ask ourselves these questions more after, and that will happen when there are not just incentives for more travelling, but disincentives as well. I’d say, put a carbon cap on KTH’s travelling and let this be part of our budgetting process, just like we budget our time and our money. Others have already done so, just look at all UK government agencies, they’ve been doing it since 2008.

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