'Eight hours by train at your destination? Then no airplane'

New UM flight policy in the making


MAASTRICHT. More train, less plane. See here the shortest possible summary of the proposal for the new flight policy of Maastricht University. Last Tuesday, the UM sustainability team presented the first ideas during an online information session. Not everyone present is convinced: "How should the research units pay for this?"

Aviation has the largest share in UM's CO2 footprint. It is logical that it is one of the main points of attention in the flight policy proposal of the UM sustainability team.

The design as it is now on the table: are you traveling for work and can you also get there by train within eight hours? Then you go by rail. Do you have to go by plane? Then you pay an amount - the so-called greening contribution - to the newly established 'UM air travel mitigation fund'. That amount depends on the CO2 emissions. To illustrate: for a return ticket from Brussels to New York, between 240 and 300 euros goes into the pot. The money from the fund will be used for ‘subsidies’ for green travel, IT improvement (often eliminating the need for travel) and projects that reduce the carbon footprint.

A nice plan in theory, it sounds in the chat of the zoom session. But in practice there seem to be quite a few snags. Especially Kai Jonas, professor of applied social psychology, is critical. He would like to take the train to a conference in Bilbao, for example, but that takes a lot more time. Maybe even an extra hotel night. “Can I give my lectures via zoom from Northern Spain? UM has to be flexible about this.”

And the greening contributions to the fund must be paid from project funds or by the traveller's department or department, according to the plan. Jonas: “I am very concerned about this. The plan focuses on budgets that are not available. More and more costs are being passed on from a central level to the faculties and thus to the individual units. Even more costs are simply not realistic. ”

Student recruiter Rafaela Frijns also has questions. Abroad, she often visits as many secondary schools as possible for a week to get students interested in UM. “Transport is often arranged by the schools. I have little influence on that. What should I do?"

There are no real answers to these questions yet. Nothing has been set in stone, emphasizes coordinator of the UM sustainability team, Anja van Bogaert, several times. “This is just a starting point for a process that will last until April 2022. We will take all these points into the next phase, in which we will discuss this with discussion groups, among other things. The aim is to eventually create a clear-cut ‘decision tree’ that tells UM employees exactly what to do in which situation.

'Eight hours by train at your destination? Then no airplane'