In this View from the South, proposals are made to begin a process where, as part of our activities, SCAR implements a carbon management plan. Doing so will mean changing the way we facilitate science and provide advice through our full suite of activities to ensure we show leadership in reducing CO2 emissions in the timeframe required to limit global warming to below 2°C. Net zero for SCAR by 2030 is the aim.
The proposals made here are far reaching. They have been discussed with the SCAR Executive Committee and have broad support, though we have also agreed that much detailed work remains to be done to give effect to these ambitions.
We encourage the SCAR community to discuss these ideas widely. SCAR is a committee of all of its members and researchers, and requires that we all agree to change. SCAR is a facilitator of science and a provider of advice. What is at stake is how we make our arrangements to deliver our mandate, in keeping with global emissions reductions targets, rather than the mandate itself.
At the 42nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting the Representatives of the Antarctic Treaty Parties thanked SCAR for its work through Resolution 7 of 2019, in which the Representatives recommended, inter alia, that their governments:
‘encourage the ATCM and the CEP to continue its cooperation with SCAR on issues related to the protection of the Antarctic environment, including, but not limited to, Antarctic biodiversity, area protection and management and the implications of climate change for Antarctica’.
The latter is especially significant in the context of the IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/home/), from which the Summary for Policy Makers (https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/chapter/summary-for-policymakers/)
is essential reading for everyone. The report, and much recent research, makes clear the role of Antarctica in the Earth System and highlights that what happens in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean regions has global significance.
The extent of the climate crisis and the requirements for further research are highlighted throughout these works. In this regard, SCAR has an important leadership role, not only in the work we facilitate and the advice we provide, but also in how we go about it.
Thus, the question arises:
How will SCAR continue to deliver its mandate of science facilitation and evidence-based advice while both reducing its emissions contributions and ensuring equality of access to opportunities for scientists from all programs and from all career stages (and especially for early career researchers)?
As most of SCAR’s constituents will know, much of the annual budget allocated to our various groups goes to support meetings and travel to meetings. In other words, a substantial contribution goes to international airline travel.
No doubt exists about the value of face-to-face meetings for developing new science endeavours and for consolidating the outcomes of work that has been done. Likewise for providing advice. Yet at the same time, no doubt exists that we have little time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (especially CO2) to net zero.
Various proposals exist on how to make decisions about when to travel and when not to do so, and what alternatives to consider. One of the most useful earlier perspectives on this matter is one published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and available here in Open Access form:
Recently, as part of its Covering Climate Now participation, Nature published a piece by Hamant et al. offering a further set of advice, available here: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02747-6
Advances in meeting technology have also meant that meetings, even of quite large groups of participants, can be effectively held electronically, acknowledging that the challenges of a digital divide have not yet been fully overcome.
In a purely SCAR context, assessment of cash flow and spending in our groups makes clear a simple fact: many groups are electing to meet typically at one of SCAR’s larger meetings, and especially at the Open Science Conference. Chief Officers are regularly requesting that funds be retained for meetings at the Open Science Conference or at larger discipline-based SCAR meetings, or sometimes for gatherings in association with large meetings of other organisations such as those of AGU or EGU. Thus, we are already starting to reduce small group independent meetings.
Proposals for Consideration
The proposals being raised here for discussion, before we develop them into a plan to be discussed at the next Delegates meeting are, in summary form the following:
- The SCAR Executive will commence immediately with developing, in consultation with the community, a ‘whole-of-organisation’ carbon management plan with the aim of reaching net zero CO2 emissions for the organisation by 2030. As part of the plan, consultations should begin with organisations running meetings or coordinating research in similar areas to those covered by SCAR for ways in which numbers of meetings can be reduced by better planning and coordination. Likewise exploration of ways to reduce overall travel footprint by venue location decisions should be considered, bearing in mind the access inequality that then has to be addressed.
- With effect from 2021, all small (less than 50 participants), subsidiary group meetings should take place electronically. Travel to small group meetings that are not associated with the Open Science Conference or one of SCAR’s disciplinary meetings should not be supported, but support should be provided to ensure improvement of electronic meeting capability, bearing in mind equality requirements.
- With effect from 2022 at the latest, SCAR should reduce the overall number of in-person meetings we hold to the Open Science Conference in even years and only one, discipline-specific meeting every odd year, with Scientific Research Programs and Science Groups working out a schedule as to how best this be done. Ambitions for further change should be considered.
- All in-person meetings should with immediate effect make electronic live participation standard so that those who elect to forego travel entirely can nonetheless participate. Several benefits also accrue, such as wider participation (including for carers who cannot travel), acknowledging the trade-offs between late nights/early mornings and jet lag, and the challenges that remain from the digital divide.
- SCAR begins with immediate effect to pay offsets for its Fellowship programs and develops means to do so initially for Early Career Researcher Travel to meetings and later for all travel, and especially by encouraging support of such programs by all of its country Members.
- SCAR introduces as part of its arrangements the requirement that travel to meetings should be by alternatives to air travel, and especially public transport such as rail, wherever this is feasible.
- All meetings should run on a sustainable practise basis, as is already being planned for the SCAR Open Science Conference to be held in Hobart in 2020.
- The SCAR Executive explores the requirements for changing our Articles of Association to ensure that Delegates can participate electronically in Delegates’ meetings and that Science Group meetings which take some decisions by country vote can accept electronic participation too.
The SCAR Executive will develop matters in consultation with the community such that we have a firm set of proposals for the Delegates to provide advice on and make decisions about at the August 2020 Delegates meeting.
In the meantime, several opportunities will present themselves for discussion. I recommend that as a community we commence a discussion now.
National delegations and adhering bodies may wish to discuss these matters in their meetings too. Outcomes of the deliberations, where these can be shared, would be welcomed as submissions too, were these to be available prior to the formal SCAR Delegates meeting in 2020.
on behalf of the SCAR Executive:
Dr M Ravichandran (India)
Dr Catherine Ritz (France)
Professor Jefferson Cardia Simões (Brazil)
Professor Gary Wilson (New Zealand)
Dr Chandrika Nath (SCAR Executive Director)