The University of Oslo’s climate march towards 2030

Blog by: Øystein Liverød, Environmental director, University of Oslo

As we all know, our greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut in half within 2030. This, obviously, gives us a period of ten years to, first, decide that we actually are aiming for this goal and implement it into the overall strategy of our university. Second, we need to know what our climate footprint is in order to know how much we need to reduce. Lastly, we need to organize a group with enough resources and a mandate to work on reducing our climate footprint. You could call it a sustainability team, and their job is to handle the myriad of questions and problems that are related to reducing our climate footprint. This setup seems like the most natural thing in the world for an engineer but there are a lot of barriers to overcome within the university sphere in order to make this work. In the following paragraphs I will discuss what we are planning at the University of Oslo (UiO), what we have done so far and what remains to be done.

University of Oslo main building. Photo by OiU/Jarli&Jordan

My colleague Christian, wrote a very good piece about the carbon footprint and the Paris agreement last year (https://nordicsustainablecampusnetwork.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/carbon-footprint-of-university-operations-and-the-paris-agreement/). Our work has been heavily influenced by NTNU’s work and I encourage interested readers to dive into this piece on order to know the fundamentals of this topic.

At the end of 2018 our rector agreed to calculate UiO’s carbon footprint and in the beginning of 2019 a group, consisting of representatives from different administrative departments, began calculating in close collaboration with a consultancy firm. The group worked closely with the consultancy firm over a course of two months and the key takeaway was that the strength of the group was that it consisted of people who quickly could collect the data needed for the calculations (flight traffic, energy consumption, financial records, fuels etc.). Locating the right data when you’re not familiar with where to look in a large organization can be a pain in the ass. UiO’s carbon footprint can be found at https://uio.no/klimaregnskap (only in Norwegian at the moment). The carbon footprint was then presented at an internal meeting where the rector and the top management participated, among students and employees. We also included the group who had lead a petition with the goal of reducing air travels and they delivered their signatories to the rector. Also, one of Norway’s top climate researchers (Bjørn Samset at CICERO) held a presentation and the rector, a student representative and other employees participated in a panel discussion about what to do with our knowledge about our carbon footprint. This gave the presentation of our very first(!) carbon footprint a nice frame and sparked an overall discussion at the university about what we should do with our knew knowledge.

After the summer vacation we continued the work and are now working on creating a sustainability team who can work on all subjects related to reducing our carbon footprint. Hopefully we’ll also decide on an ambitious climate goal before Christmas. Both actions are slow and difficult processes that needs to be discussed by the administration, the faculties, the University board and the top management before reaching a conclusion. We have an exciting journey in front of us and hopefully many universities are in the process of doing the same. We are happy to share our experiences and to learn from others. If this sounds intriguing, don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Decision tree – a helpful tool when deciding whether to fly or not.

Blog by Sigurlaug I. Lövdahl, University of Iceland

The decision tree – Should I fly?

The decision tree is a tool intended to help people determine, whether they should fly to a meeting, event, or whatever it is they are planning to take part in.    

The first question posed is, whether it would be possible to take part in the event online. If so, this is a positive result for the environment.

If the answer is no, the issue becomes more complicated and we ask ourselves whether it is important for us to take part in the event. If the answer is no then we simply abandon the plan.

If the answer is yes, the next step is to ask, whether we could take a train or a bus for at least a part of the journey (remembering that from Iceland, we always need to fly the first leg). At this stage we could also consider whether it would be possible to use the trip for another purpose as well.

If the answer is yes, perhaps we can take one flight instead of two and therefore reduce our carbon emissions. We might also think about whether we should offset our carbon emissions.

If the answer is no, then we should still think about the possibility of offsetting carbon emissions.

After using the tree, we should have received the encouragement we need, to think carefully before taking our next flight.

If this is really going to function, then some fundamental questions need to be answered like: who should pay for carbon offsetting, the employee or the uni? And what needs to be changed in the promotion system of the uni that makes it more attractive to stay at home instead of flying?

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Nordic-Baltic multidisciplinary course on sustainable urban development

Nordplus Horizontal has provided funding for arranging a multidisciplinary course on sustainable urban development each autumn during 2019-2021. The course is based on the successful Nordic City Challenge design and is coordinated by Hanasaari – the Swedish-Finnish Cultural Centre in collaboration with partners, including Aalto University, Urban Academy Network, University of Tallinn, University of Latvia, and Stockholm University (Stockholm Resilience Centre). Nordic Sustainable Campus Network is a supporter of the course. See below for the course description.

This year the Sustainable Cities in the Nordic-Baltic Region -course is arranged in Tallinn on Oct 31st – Nov 3rd 2019. The themes of the year are mobility, well-being and seasonality. The following courses will take place in Riga, Latvia 2020 and Stockholm, Sweden 2021.

The call for Master’s level students from all the Nordic and Baltic universities is open until September 8th 2019. The applicants may represent different urban development –related fields, such as geography, environmental sciences, social sciences, environmental engineering or urban planning. The course covers students’ travel costs and accommodation. See here for the application form.

Pictures: Salla Jokela, Meeri Karvinen, Älvstaden AB.

About the course

Sustainable Cities in the Nordic-Baltic Region (SuCiNoBaRe) is a new innovative multidisciplinary 5 ECTS course that brings together master and doctoral students together with postdocs, academic professionals and local experts and stakeholders from the Nordic and Baltic cities. The purpose of the course is to engage students in real life urban challenges and problem solving processes. During 4 days circa 25 Nordic-Baltic master students, divided into multidisciplinary teams, face a real-life case for which they create sustainable solutions, and take part in inspiring lectures. Doctoral students from Nordic and Baltic universities supervise the student teams. The course highlights a social-ecological approach to urban planning, based on the understanding that people, communities, economies, societies, cultures are embedded parts of the biosphere.

Course contact:

Jonna Similä, Project leader, Sustainable Cities in the Nordic-Baltic Region

Hanasaari – the Swedish-Finnish Cultural Center, jonna.simila(at)hanaholmen.fi, www.hanaholmen.fi

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Enhancing campus biodiversity with students, staff and other campus users

Blog by Anna Heikkinen and Jere Nieminen

Conference travel may have far-reaching consequences – also other than climate change related. In September 2018, our Business to Nature (B2N) Research Group attended a corporate responsibility conference in Leeds, UK, to present our research findings on the generation of urban nature in stakeholder collaboration. Prior to the conference – through some online research – we found out that Leeds University has been very progressive in creating nature in the campus. The obvious next step for us to was to contact the university facility services to arrange a tour of the campus areas. In the tour, we learned about the sustainable garden, the library green roof and meadows, which inspired us to think how we could generate something similar for our campus too.

Leeds University Sustainability Garden / Jere Nieminen

Campus Nature: Biodiversity as a part of campus life, teaching and research

In Spring 2019, Campus Nature research and development project was launched at the Tampere University. The project creates new green areas at the university’s city centre campus in collaboration with campus users, i.e. students, staff and other stakeholders such as Tampere citizens, visitors and passers-by. The project focuses on three sub-projects: a green roof, two campus meadows, and a vision for a roof garden. The sub-projects are realised in an open process of co-design and co-development with campus users to enhance biodiversity, collaboration and recreational opportunities in campus and in the city of Tampere, as the city centre campus is located in the city centre.

Campus meadow illustration / Jere Nieminen

The green roof project redevelops an existing roof of an underpass (of 390 m2) into a green roof. The roof is well visible from the surrounding terrain and buildings. Redevelopment of the roof is the first phase in the project and the co-design process involves a green roof survey targeted to all campus users.  The survey gathers ideas for underpass green roof design by introducing different types of green roofs that could be used on the underpass. Based on the survey results, the roof design will be decided by the project researchers in collaboration with landscape architects.

The campus meadows will be constructed on two locations (both 200–250 m2). Both areas are sun-exposed and next to central campus pathways. The existing terrain will be removed and native Finnish plant species will be sown to generate a meadow.

The vision for a roof garden means that the project facilitates co-designing a vision for the renewal of a large roof deck in the university main building. The main building was constructed in 1960’s and the roof deck is currently under-used as the area is highly exposed to sun and rain – depending on the weather. This roof deck is a very central area in the city centre campus and thus a fruitful opportunity for generating communal campus nature areas.

School meadow as a start for enhancing the biodiversity of the university campus

We already have experience of constructing a dry sun-exposed meadow near the Tampere University Teacher Training School at Nekala, Tampere. The school meadow was established in the autumn of 2018. At school meadow, the seeds were sown and saplings were planted by elementary school students of the school as a part of their biology studies. School meadow is also a site of ecological compensation for a very rare moth Anacampsis fuscella. More information about the Nekala school meadow in Finnish: https://sykoy.fi/tampereen-yliopiston-normaalikoululle-alueen-biodiversiteettia-lisaava-kouluniitty/

Seeds and Sowing seeds at the school meadow / Jere Nieminen

Anna Heikkinen in a Senior Research Fellow at the B2N Research Group, Tampere University. Anna.L.Heikkinen@tuni.fi

Jere Nieminen is a Post-doctoral Researcher at the B2N Research Group, Tampere University, Jere.Nieminen@tuni.fi.

B2N Research Group conducts research on stakeholder-driven value creation ecosystem services and on the generation of urban nature. Campus Nature is a joint project of B2N Research Group, the University Properties of Finland Ltd and Tampere University. The project is funded for 2019 by the University Properties of Finland Ltd and Tampere University and the project budget is EUR 94.500,00. For more information, please see: http://www.b2n.fi/kampusluonto/.

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NSCN core group seminar in NTNU Trondheim 30.1.-1.2.2019

Blog by Meri Löyttyniemi, chair of NSCN

2,5 days went fast when NSCN core group visited NTNU in Trondheim. NTNU main campus  Gløshaugen is situated in a spectacular location up on the hills of Trondheim. Truly Norwegian atmosphere, with majestic views! Also the history and architecture of the city and the university itself was impressive. NTNU is in the process of merging activities and campuses of several institutions. Also the Gløshaugen energy system in its closed-loop manner is interesting as it is continuously decreasing its ecological footprint.

The days were filled with plenty of learning opportunities by sharing practices. Our programme included sustainability strategies of participants´ universities, campus development and sustainability of NTNU Gløshaugen, follow-up of Sustainability Literacy Test by NTNU prof. John Hermansen, air travel policies & climate compensations and planning our joint upcoming activities of NSCN. Not to forget the opportunity of enjoying good company of colleagues, excellent vegan food and site visits at NTNU´s campus.

Among my biggest take-aways were re-affirming the urgency of climate actions, importance of ambitious campus visions with strong mandate for implementation especially with energy solutions, and wonderful inspiration from colleagues and their institutions. Continuum for SuLiTest is definitely also what I am looking into. We also planned the upcoming session at NUAS Forum 2019 in August, and 2 great sessions will follow, with a special focus to air travel.

The visit would not have been possible without the generous hospitality of our excellent host, Christian Solli and his colleagues at NTNU. Warm thanks – takk!

Programme & minutes of our Trondheim seminar is available here. At the same site, one can find all the essential materials and minutes of NSCN core group. If you want to learn more about NSCN activities, do not hesitate to contact any of the core group members.  

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New BOLD ideas presented by the Nordic City Challenge for developing Kulbanekvarteret area in Copenhagen

Imagine a meeting point with an outdoor library, green walls, or a lighthouse powered by cycling. Or think about a memory trail showcasing shared history or barefoot pathways that improve the wellbeing of both nature and humans while strengthening the identity of the local community.

These are a few of the innovative ideas presented by Nordic multidisciplinary student teams. Winners of the multidisciplinary case competition Nordic City Challenge (NCC) 2018 were selected on the 10th of October at Maersk tower in Copenhagen.

Jury selected student team Tree Hygge as winners of the challenge. The team describes their proposition “Tree Hygge Interventions” in the following way:

“Kulbanekvarteret is a diverse area of renewal in southwest Copenhagen with social housing projects. It’s experiencing several challenges such as physical borders, social barriers and ecological degradation that have created a disconnect between people and nature. Therefore, seven hectares of land will be reshaped into a park. This area offers potentials such as a central neighborhood location, an attractive topography, and a willingness of co-creation from the locals. Thus, we envision using the space to connect people and nature and create a sense of community, which will enhance well-being. To meet our objective, we propose to establish social and ecological connections through modular green wall interventions and a lighthouse made of recycled materials. The modular walls will provide vertical planting space, habitats for pollinators and birds, and seating options, as well as creating cozy spaces for gathering of locals. The lighthouse is a wooden structure with a bicycle-powered generator connected to lights, creating opportunities for education, engagement, and highly-visible gatherings. Our implementation strategy includes intermediate action plans where residents can engage in the development and maintenance of the area; interventions include forming hyperlocal media and hosting small projects such as birdhouses construction in cooperation with youth organizations.”

Winners_2018 Members of the winning team are (from the left):

  • Alexis Neukirch, Environment & natural resources, University of Iceland
  • Monica Quevedo, Climate change, University of Copenhagen
  • Janna Kampers, Architecture and planning beyond sustainability, Chalmers University of Technology
  • Aino Vasankari, Environmental politics & regional science, University of Tampere
  • Antti Takkunen, Spatial planning and transportation engineering, Aalto University

The jury described the winning proposal as “simple, focused, mobile, cohesive, and feasible.” They also praised the winning team for using all members’ competencies in a balanced manner and for introducing a human scale to the case location. Their presentation, as well as all the other proposals, are available here.

The organizers invited 24 master’s students from five Nordic countries to participate in the multidisciplinary course in urban planning. The participants in the Nordic City Challenge represent a variety of academic fields, including architecture, urban planning, global health, urban theology, geography, social sciences, sustainable development, and industrial design engineering.

The project brought together students, teachers, practitioners and leading experts from the Nordic countries to work on a real-life planning case. The case this year is the renewal project Kulbanekvarteret in Copenhagen. Prior to the on-site work the students worked with a pre-task, which provided  scholarly knowledge on social-ecological sustainability.

The intensive days were held from the 7th of October until the 10th of October at Schæffergården in Gentofte, Copenhagen. The course included a walking tour of the case site, Kulbanekvarteret along with discussions with local residents.

The course highlights social-ecological approach to urban planning. The student teams create plans to develop Kulbanekvarteret by using the urban space to enhance the health and wellbeing of the community. Another goal is to strengthen the shared understanding and identity of the neighborhood of Kulbane. In the proposals, the student teams focused on development of the health and wellbeing, but also integrating environmental initiatives in combined solutions.

The program included input from Area renewal project of Kulbanekvarteret, local residents, local assemblies and youth organizations as well as representatives from University of Helsinki and Aalto University.

The group work was facilitated by experienced researchers with different orientations into urban planning. The course work also included a written pre-assignment before the intensive course as well as a written report after the course on the learning experiences and case outcomes. On the final day, the student teams presented their solutions to the other teams, a jury, an external audience. The jury evaluated the results and gave feedback.

Nordic City Challenge academic tutors:

  • Salla Jokela, University of Helsinki, Urban Academy (Political geography / Urban studies and planning / Tourism)
  • Meeri Karvinen, Nordic Sustainable Campus Network (NSCN) (Urban ecology / Sustainability in higher education)
  • Katri Pulkkinen, Aalto University (Architecture / Social-ecological approach)
  • Donovan Moloney, NCC 2017 alumnae, University of Copenhagen
  • Claire Zarb, Climate-KIC visiting expert trainee

Nordic City Challenge jury members:

  • Niels Wilken Silkjær Pedersen, Urban Planner, Områdefornyelsen Kulbanekvarteret
  • Sune Porse Carlsen, Urban planner, Carlsens Planer
  • Bjørg Elvekjær, Senior Advisor, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen
  • Tomas Refslund Poulsen, Head of Energy & Sustainability, Member of the NSCN core group, University of Copenhagen

The project is administered by Hanaholmen cooperation centre for Sweden and Finland. Organizers included also Urban Academy, University of Helsinki, Aalto University and Nordic Sustainable Campus Network (NSCN). The course is financially covered by Nordplus Horizontal.

Warm thanks for collaborators and congratulations for the successful teams!

More about the Nordic City Challenge

Contact persons:

  • Jonna Similä, Project Leader Nordic City Challenge, Hanasaari – the Swedish-Finnish cultural centre, jonna.simila@hanaholmen.fi, +358 40 6495454
  • Janne Wikström, Project Leader, HanaAcademy, Hanasaari – the Swedish-Finnish cultural centre for Sweden and Finland, janne.wikstom@hanaholmen.fi, +358 444637071
  • Meeri Karvinen, Researcher, coordinator of the NSCN, Aalto University, meeri.karvinen@aalto.fi, +358 50 407 1884
  • Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen, researcher, Land Use Planning and Urban Studies Group, Aalto University School of Engineering
  • Salla Jokela, post doc-researcher, Urban Academy salla.jokela@helsinki.fi,+358 50 448 9190, www.urbanacademy.fi

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Carbon footprint of university operations and the Paris agreement

Text: Christian Solli, Environmental advisor of the NTNU

Introduction

Avoiding the most extreme temperature increases due to climate change is the biggest environmental challenge the world is facing. In order to live up to our commitment (Paris agreement) of keeping the temperature increase “well below” 2 degrees, we need immediate and deep reductions in CO2 emissions that quickly become net zero. Continued emissions of CO2 will keep temperatures rising.

 The slower we manage to reduce emissions, the more we will spend of the remaining “carbon budget” for our target of 2 degrees maximum warming. If the budget is exceeded we will have to rely on (speculative) future negative emission technologies to achieve the temperature target.

 Against this backdrop, and in order to understand the challenge at an organizational level, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has mapped its total carbon footprint several times since 2011, latest in 2017.

Carbon footprint analysis and use in management

The total carbon footprint of NTNU for 2017 amounts to almost 100 000 tons of CO2 (see infographic below). Energy and transportation are the two largest main categories, while a large group with a myriad of other types of inputs makes up the remaining 45%. Supporting activities, such as facilities management, are responsible for the majority of energy, construction and operations emissions, while the faculties have large contributions to travel and equipment for operations (laboratory consumables, furniture, IT etc. that are accounted toward the faculties) and scientific equipment. A dashboard with a more detailed breakdown of emissions contributions has also been published on the web (in Norwegian).

 The footprint includes the estimated life cycle emissions associated with the consumption of all goods and services used by the university in 2017. The estimation is based on combining the university’s economic accounts with an environmentally extended input-output model. The result is a carbon footprint account using the same structural breakdown as the economic accounts. In addition emissions estimated for commuting is added based on the results from a bi-annual travel survey.

 One advantage with using such a method, is that it quickly gives an indication of where to focus efforts to reduce emissions. It also distributes emissions the same way in the organization as the economic accounts are structured, highlighting who is “responsible” for the respective part of the footprint. If additional information about the purchases is available (for instance supplier, building, project number, geography etc.), the carbon footprint can also be allocated along the same dimensions.  

A disadvantage with the approach is that while quick, complete and fairly accurate at an aggregated level, uncertainty increases when drilling down in the organizational hierarchy. It is also not possible to accurately track progress over time, since the granularity of the model is based on broad (average) product groups. Hence it is not able to capture the effect of switching from one product within a product group to another.

 For management and tracking progress other, more detailed, indicators are needed. These must by developed on a product-by-product basis, and should be directed toward the products with the highest contribution to the footprint. For instance, energy indicators could be kwh energy consumed from the grid, per full time equivalent. Similarly for travel, one indicator could be travelled person-km by air, per full time equivalent.

 In the case of NTNU an early carbon footprint analysis formed the basis of the current (soon obsolete) environmental action plan (in Norwegian). Targeted areas were based on the contribution to the total footprint. This included a quantified target of 20% reduction in energy use, an unquantified target of reducing air travel , and unquantified targets of reducing the footprint from purchased goods by using environmental criteria in procurement. However, crafted in 2011, the action plan targets were nowhere near what is needed to be Paris compliant as per today.

NTNU_blogpost_9_2018

What can we do to become more Paris compliant?

First, we have to acknowledge that all emissions count. Any ton of CO2 taken from the “2-degree budget”, is one less ton to be emitted later, or eventually, one ton more to be captured from the atmosphere in the future. A ton CO2 from university operations is as important as any other ton.

 Also, deploying policies that achieve the necessary deep and rapid reductions in CO2 emissions, requires strong democratic support. People look to academia for truth and insight. If there is a perception in the public that there is much talk about climate change and little action, it may be harder to get public support for ambitious policies. Universities should therefore complement the continuous information and communication about climate change by, through our own actions, showing that we take the Paris agreement and global warming seriously.

 As shown in the introduction, emissions must rapidly approach zero to reach the 2-degree target. Focusing on NTNU, the direct emissions from burning fuels in the operation, are a very low part of the university footprint (a few percent, including commuting). Reductions in the carbon footprint must therefore to a large extent come from the combined effect of three mechanisms:

  • A reduction in the volume of emissions intensive goods and services used  (for instance energy, furniture, IT-equipment, travel etc.).
  • Changing the structure of the consumption. For instance substitution of air travel by train, bus or high quality video meetings.
  •  Improvements in the background economy, affecting the emissions intensity of each product.

 On the latter, universities have some potential to contribute to change (aside more indirect effects of research) through procurement strategies that favour technologies and companies with a lower carbon footprint. Other than that there are few ways of influencing this factor.

 The two other factors are more easily addressed through immediate or medium term actions that we control ourselves. We can reduce our demand for energy by adapting behaviour, control systems, upgrading technical equipment, installing PV and so on. Transport emissions can be reduced by limiting parking, facilitating walking, cycling and public transport, or by reducing air travel. The demand for various goods, like PCs, furniture and other equipment, may be reduced through smart systems for re-use or shared use, or accepting a lower functional level and a little older equipment, for non-essential uses. Separate strategies are needed, and must be developed, for different product groups. All of this is, at least partially, a question of will, knowledge and resources.

 NTNU (and I would assume most other Nordic universities) still has a very long way to go to become Paris compliant in terms of our own carbon footprint. NTNU has an ongoing process of developing the next generation environmental action plan for the university, planned to be valid for the period up to 2030. We are working to develop this with the intention to be coherent with Norway’s responsibilities from signing the Paris agreement. In the coming years we want to show that we take climate change, -mitigation and the obligations in the Paris agreement seriously. By setting an example, NTNU and other universities can lead the way for policy development and more ambitious targets, inspiring larger and quicker emission reductions than under current policies.

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