Eco-friendly mobility in programmes and projects involving grants for individuals and in operational projects

  1. Limiting climate change: a global, institutional and individual challenge

In signing the Paris Climate Agreement, the global community undertook to limit anthropogenic global warming to significantly below 2 degrees Celsius. Achieving this will require effective political frameworks and societal support for this comprehensive transformation process. This includes reducing energy consumption in organizations and at the individual level. We play our part in this challenge, which is facing society as a whole, by fostering cooperation between scientists and practitioners and by helping civil society to fight for climate action in a well-founded and systematic manner. We contribute to strengthening fact-based media reporting with a view to promoting objective public discourse about climate change and climate protection.

  1. Face-to-face encounters and international experience remain essential

Openness to the world is one of the core values at Stiftung Mercator. It is committed to this by strengthening cohesion in the EU and by fostering international understanding, especially with China and Turkey. We believe that international experience – be it work or leisure time spent together during seminars, immersion in other cultures and languages in and outside Europe, work or study experience at outstanding international institutions, periods of research “in the field” and joint project activities – will remain essential in the future, too. Our aim is to give the people we support opportunities for comprehensive personal development and the chance to participate in excellent training and research. At the same time, we want to ensure that the mobility we promote and fund will in future be more climate-friendly and to some extent more targeted than before – by opting for longer and more substantial stays and by systematically expanding digital formats.

  1. Recommendations and guidelines for eco-friendly mobility

We want the stays abroad that our programmes involve to be as sustainable as possible. To this end, our grant holders should observe the following criteria and recommendations:

a) Explore diversity in Europe and the world

We expressly encourage our grant holders to familiarize themselves wherever possible with the diversity of European and non-European perspectives and contexts. We recommend that the further away a destination is in geographical and cultural terms from one’s home environment, the longer one should plan to stay there; not only in view of the consumption of fossil fuels involved in getting there, but also for reasons of content – as this is the only way to achieve full cultural immersion and gain substantial insights. We therefore recommend spending at least one day at one’s destination for every 750 kilometres flown, and will actively support such planning through our funding work.

b) Consider geographical alternatives

When choosing their destinations and modes of travel, grant holders should take the consumption of fossil fuels that this will involve into account and consider possible alternatives, applying strict criteria of their own accord.

c) Weigh up the pros and cons of digital alternatives against the added value offered by face-to-face events

For short events that focus particularly on communicating information, online formats should be given preference to face-to-face events that require international travel. Furthermore, the increasing number of international online events means that it is possible to follow conferences and symposia or to attend supplementary courses with international experts abroad without this necessary involving physical mobility.

d) No flights within Europe

We recommend all grant holders, wherever possible, to take the train or car-share when travelling within Europe.

e) Carbon offset unavoidable air travel

We want our grant holders to offset unavoidable air travel according to the Gold Standard carbon offset programme (https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/umwelttipps-fuer-den-alltag/siegelkunde/the-gold-standard). Our aim is to make it possible for all funded persons and organizations to afford carbon offset payments for travel associated with our funding.

  1. Eco-friendly mobility thanks to a binding institutional framework

We additionally use the following stipulations and measures to reduce fossil fuel-based mobility:

a) Travel cost subsidies within Europe:

Grant holders will not have the costs of flights within Germany or Europe reimbursed unless the fastest rail connection between the train stations nearest to the point of departure and the destination exceeds six hours. Subsidies for any remaining flights are capped to ensure that no financial advantages are derived by comparison with train travel.

b) Allowances for air travel tied to minimum stay requirement:

If reaching a particular destination involves unavoidable air travel, we recommend spending at least one day at the destination for every 750 kilometres flown (see above). We do not provide funding for fossil fuel-intensive trips, for example to attend non-European congresses or to take part in excursions lasting just a few days.

c) Carbon offsets

Grant holders are provided with a higher travel cost allowance – based on trust – if they carbon offset their flights. We offset the business travel of our staff and volunteers in accordance with the Gold Standard carbon offset programme.

d) Digital events

Wherever possible, we make our events and consulting services available in digital formats.

g) Bus transfers

If event venues are difficult to reach using public transport, we organize bus transfers to and from well-connected stations.

Outlook

We all have a duty to raise awareness of the consequences of using fossil fuels, to enable people to take well-informed decisions of their own accord while at the same time laying down a binding framework for eco-friendly mobility. We are confident that the recommendations we have outlined above, the positions we have adopted, the new minimum stays we have introduced for air travel, and the active expansion of digital formats will bring about a further wave of positive changes that will allow us to take responsibility for limiting anthropogenic climate change.

We are also in the process of drawing up guidelines for eco-friendly mobility within our organizations and recommendations for funded projects.

The rules presented here for eco-friendly mobility in programmes and projects involving grants for individuals and in operational projects should be seen as just the beginning, as a work in progress.