Air Travel Emissions Reduction at U of T

In 2019, CECCS helped kick start the work for air travel emissions reduction at U of T by bringing together various stakeholders and ensuring the final air travel emissions mitigation initiative was informed by research and the insight of experts. CECCS guided the process of research and discovery in two major stages which are described further below.   

This air travel emissions initiative is one example of how institutional change can start with individual change-makers, and how CECCS seeks to embed University-wide sustainability initiatives.  

Stage 1: Distribute 2020 & CRIS Workshop

CECCS explored virtual conferencing technology options using the Distribute 2020 conference hosted successfully at U of T by The Society for Cultural Anthropology and the Society for Visual Anthropology as a test case. While the planning for Distribute 2020, Nearly-Carbon-Neutral Conference began in 2019, the conference occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic when virtual capabilities were a necessity. In November 2020, the Centre for Research Innovation and Support (CRIS) held a session on Creating an Engaging Online Research Conference Experience based on Distribute 2020.  

Stage 2: Business Air Travel Report, Book Chapter, & CLL Project

To investigate different approaches to air travel and emissions reductions, CECCS conducted research and a literature review on the ethics of carbon offsets. In addition, a campus as a living lab project (CLL) as part of ENV461/1103 provided insight into how to quantify business air travel emissions at U of T. 

The result of these efforts were published in the November 2020 Addressing University of Toronto’s Business-Related Scope 3 Air Travel Emissions report and a book chapter titled “University Responses to and Obligations for Business Air Travel Emissions” appearing in Conversations on Ethical Leadership: Lessons Learned from University Governance (University of Toronto Press, 2023). This report covered quantifying air travel emissions, alternatives to flying, and the creation of an air travel emissions mitigation initiative.  

Stage 3: Sustainability Office Launches ATEMI

As we emerged from the pandemic in early 2022, the UTSG Sustainability Office assigned ATEMI as a priority project including hiring a contract project manager to develop and launch the program. Extensive consultation and collaboration with many stakeholders across the University were required to create a best-in-class program.        

In March 2023, the Air Travel Emissions Mitigation Initiative (ATEMI) launched and started collecting funds in the forms of carbon offset fees based on the distance travelled. The first ATEMI-funded project involved a large tree planting initiative at the Koffler Scientific Reserve at Joker’s Hill.​ A call for proposals for further ATEMI-funded carbon reduction initiatives took place in October 2023, with project selection slated for 2024.  

The dedicated efforts of the UTSG Sustainability Office, Facilities & Services (F&S) Finance, CECCS, Information & Instructional Technology (IIT) and Financial Advisory Services and Training (FAST) team staff who worked together to launch ATEMI was recognized with the 2023 CUCCIO Innovation Award.  

For up-to-date information regarding ATEMI, please visit Offsetting U of T air travel emissions – Facilities.  

ATEMI Model & Process