EGU23-13694, updated on 13 Mar 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Reducing the carbon footprint of a public research laboratory in Geosciences. Assessing a reduction strategy built with laboratory members after a 3-year experimentation

Thierry Pellarin, Nicolas Champollion, Nicolas Gratiot, Claudia Teran-Escobar, Isabelle Ruin, Geremy Panthou, Benoit Hingray, Gilles Delaygue, Eliot Jager, Alexis Lamothe, Guillaume Piton, Guillaume Evin, Juliette Blanchet, Nathalie Philippon, Armelle Philip, Patricia Martinerie, and Ghislain Picard
Thierry Pellarin et al.
  • IGE, CNRS, UGA, IRD, G-INP, Grenoble, France

The Institute of Environmental Geosciences (IGE) is a public research laboratory in Earth and Environmental Sciences with a staff of about 300 people, which conducts research on climate, the anthropisation of our planet and environmental risks, combining glaciology, hydrology, oceanography, mechanics, atmospheric sciences and human sciences. An important part of its activity consists of field experiments in remote sites (Antarctica, Asia, South America, Africa), numerical simulations using significant computer resources (several million CPU hours/year), using expensive and sometimes energy intensive scientific equipment (e.g. 170 m² of cold rooms).

In 2019, the laboratory collectively decided to adopt a strategy to reduce its Carbon Footprint (CFP) by 7% per year in order to achieve a 50% reduction by 2030 and thus to comply with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. The first CFP budget (2018 and 2019, using the GES1point5 tool) showed a predominance of emissions from professional travels (~640 tCO2e out of 1850 tCO2e, i.e. 2.6 tCO2e/person). In this context, the strategy consisted in defining CO2 budgets for each of the 8 research teams of the IGE on the basis of the 2018/2019 emissions, imposing a 10% reduction per year from 2020. Given the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the reduction targets for professional travel were easily achieved (-81% and -64%) and the reduction in 2022 was -39% compared to 2018/2019 instead of the targeted -27%.

For all emission items (commuting, professional travel, heating, electricity, digital computing, purchasing, refrigerants), the reduction was -45% in 2020, -30% in 2021 and -15% in 2022. To consider the evolution of the number of people in the laboratory (and in the teams), the mean individual CFP has been defined as the ratio between the CO2 emissions and the number of people in the laboratory. The IGE's mean individual CFP was 7.22 tCO2e/person in 2018/2019 and 5.45 tCO2e/person in 2022 (for a target of 6.0 tCO2/person). It should be 3.61 tCO2e/person in 2030.

The strategy (the long-term reduction trajectory and the team-based reduction objectives) is well received by the IGE laboratory staff, even if some staff are still reluctant to any form of reduction. To ease its implementation and check whether it is being kept, a bimonthly monitoring of the teams’ emissions and the mean personal CFP was set up. The IGE also proposes participation in awareness-raising tools (La Fresque du Climat, Ma Terre en 180'). Significant changes in travel habits have followed. For instance, out of the 30 members of the IGE who come to the EGU in Vienna each year, 90% came by plane and 10% by train (a 20-hour long journey) in 2018/2019, and this ratio was 25% by plane and 75% by train in 2022.

To achieve our objective, further actions need to be identified to reduce the "purchase" and "digital computing" emission posts. What will help is that the insulation of the buildings was initiated in 2022, and the cold rooms which emitted a very strong greenhouse gas (refrigerant gas R508b) were changed in 2022 for a model operating with CO2.

How to cite: Pellarin, T., Champollion, N., Gratiot, N., Teran-Escobar, C., Ruin, I., Panthou, G., Hingray, B., Delaygue, G., Jager, E., Lamothe, A., Piton, G., Evin, G., Blanchet, J., Philippon, N., Philip, A., Martinerie, P., and Picard, G.: Reducing the carbon footprint of a public research laboratory in Geosciences. Assessing a reduction strategy built with laboratory members after a 3-year experimentation, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-13694,, 2023.