A GREEN CLEAN FUTURE
ISSUE #25 | THE PIE REVIEW | 47
As the chief executive of London’s Heathrow Airport
has said, “the answer is not to stop people flying. It has to
be about decarbonising aviation”. Carbon is the enemy, not
aviation, he stresses.
In New Zealand, Massey University has partnered with
Air New Zealand to offer scholarships to students who
“demonstrate commitment to and advancement of sustai-nability”
in Aotearoa. The world’s largest airline, American
Airlines, has added devices to the ends of 240 of its fleet’s
wings to reduce the amount of fuel needed to fly. These
additions have avoided roughly 700,000 tons of CO2 emis-sions,
but steps forward in aviation innovation do seem slow.
Critics of offsetting suggest that the process takes deca-des,
and requires space we don’t have. Without other climate
policies in place, the 5.8 billion tons of emissions the US
contributed across the economy in 2019 would require twice
the area of Texas to offset. If the world’s 5.1 million students
each took one three-hour flight in 2016, the 4.3 billion tons
of emissions is not far off. “I wouldn’t really think of carbon
offsetting as a long-term solution to the problem. But it can’t
hurt,” Shields recommends.
As Lamont highlights, “cut down unnecessary flights,
choose low carbon options and then everything else that’s
left, at least offset”.
EAUC’s ‘travel better package’ has been created to sup-port
individuals working in the sector to reflect on and
reduce their air travel. It does not, its author Sonya Peres
notes, “ask them to completely eliminate flying, but rather to
be better informed about the harmful impacts of air travel,
make better decisions about travel and, wherever possible,
challenge the higher education sector’s unsustainable rela-tionship
with air travel”.
For the far-flung University of Tasmania, air travel has
been a particularly vexing issue, according to sustainability
manager Corey Peterson. The only alternative option for
travel to the island state is a slow boat ride from Melbourne.
“Lack of effective surface travel options in Australia make it
very hard to not fly,” he says, adding that videoconferencing
has seen a “huge take up” as a virtual transport mode. As for
student international travel, it remains early days.
For others, transnational education and international
branch campuses may be an option, including mixed deli-very
program with distance learning. “Some of the worst
programs I’ve seen in terms of climate footprint are short
residency programs or intensive programs,” Shields adds.
However, reducing short programs may create a pro-blem
with elitism, Lamont warns. Those are the programs
that have “really opened up international study to a much
broader group of students and lower socio-economic status
students,” she says. “Not having that first stepping stone
would, I think, be really difficult.”
Rethinking how the business of international education
operates offers a new opportunity, Lamont continues. But
it’s definitely a difficult juggling effort.
As Peres at EAUC notes, the sector’s relationship with
air travel is currently unsustainable. The ”good news,”
according to Nikula, is that compared with international
tourism, emissions associated with the sector are a very
small part. “It is really early, early days, some baby steps to
fill. But again, when we look at what’s been happening, you
can kind of expect that we will be seeing more action in
the near future as well.”
How many trees? Numbers of trees needed
to offset travel for Chinese students per
study destination per year
* Based on one return flight
to destination capital city and
Beijing per Chinese student