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Political Research Exchange - PRX

All Talk and No Action? Estimating the Carbon Footprint of ECPR General Conferences and Possibilities to Reduce it

Environmental Policy
Climate Change
Sebastian Jäckle
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Sebastian Jäckle
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

Virtually no one denies the connection between carbon emissions and global warming with all its disastrous implications any longer – perhaps except for some people in the White House. The political consequences of climate change and possible ways for politics to tackle these problems have also been topics of numerous panels at ECPR conferences. Contrary to the plurality of discussions at these conferences and papers published in this field, it is striking that there is no systematic account of the carbon footprint of ECPR conferences. With thousands of participants coming from all over the world, the carbon emissions from travelling to the conferences should be considered particularly relevant. This imbalance between on the one hand scientifically rigorous work that in many cases also concludes with morally grounded demands to politicians and on the other hand surprisingly little self-reflection when it comes to our own carbon footprint resulting from conference hopping, is clearly astonishing.
In this paper I will estimate the CO2 footprint of the last two ECPR general conferences in Oslo and Hamburg resulting to a large extent from air-travel. Comparing the per capita emissions just for these conferences with average citizens’ emissions as well as with the CO2-emissions that environmental experts find appropriate in order to keep on track with the Two-Degree-Goal impressively shows that change is necessary. The paper will present and discuss different options how to effectively reduce the carbon footprint of ECPR conferences and estimate their potential impact. For example, CO2 reductions could be achieved by actively promoting travelling options with low CO2 emissions, choosing conference locations that are easily accessible by train for many participants, or generating the possibility of online participation in panels via webcam.
Most importantly though, I hope to start a debate among political scientists about our own role in reducing carbon emissions and thus a transition from talking to action – and this could of course also mean to stay at home and not to fly to the next big conference when there is actually no really good reason to be there…
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