The World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) recognizes its responsibility as a leader in facilitating international climate research to take account of the emissions generated from travel to meetings and events. As such, in May 2023 the WCRP Joint Scientific Committee (JSC) approved new Guidelines on reducing carbon emissions from travel. While the main aim of the Guidelines is to reduce carbon emissions from WCRP-related travel, they should also help the community to think strategically about how to deliver meetings in ways that reduce carbon emissions (i.e., regional hub models, conjoint meetings, alternating face-to-face and virtual meetings) and to prioritize travel for types of events that and for participants who will benefit the most from in-person participation. Importantly, the Guidelines call for all WCRP meetings to be hybrid, to ensure global inclusivity. Note that accounting for carbon emissions from activities other than travel is still under discussion. Please read the full Guidelines below. 

If you have any feedback on the Guidelines, please email Narelle van der Wel: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Note that all WCRP International Project Offices will be contacted separately by their Secretariat liaison, who will provide more details on the logistics of the calculation of carbon emissions. 


WCRP Guidelines on reducing carbon emissions from travel (May 2023)

Full text:

24 May 2023

1. Background

  • The World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) recognizes its responsibility as a leader in facilitating international climate research to take account of the emissions generated from travel to meetings and events.
  • While it is recognized that in-person participation in some meetings and events plays an important role in WCRP’s work, particularly for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) and Global South researchers, there are many meetings and events that can be held online. Travel needs to be prioritized and other models, such as fully virtual, hybrid, or ‘regional hubs’ meetings can be successfully utilized to reduce emissions from travel.
  • A number of WCRP projects and activities are already implementing procedures, both formally and informally, to prioritize their travel to reduce carbon emissions, demonstrating that the timing is right to provide a set of guidelines on a Programme-wide level to ensure that we can, as a Programme, set goals and monitor progress.
  • To set goals and monitor progress, all WCRP core projects and other high-level activities (e.g., Lighthouse Activities) will need to collect data to allow for the calculation of the carbon emissions from travel in a universally agreed way against an agreed baseline.
  • It is important that the calculation of carbon emissions from travel provides clear and meaningful information that can be acted on, but also that the process is not unduly onerous on the WCRP Secretariat and International Offices.

2. Goal

  • To set in place a transparent set of guidelines and procedures that can be used by the WCRP Secretariat and the International Offices to calculate carbon emissions from travel and report on this to the WCRP Joint Scientific Committee (JSC) at their annual Session.

3. Procedure

The carbon emissions from travel for all WCRP projects and activities needs to be centrally calculated to ensure that we can assess the overall carbon emissions from travel of the Programme. All high-level projects and activities of WCRP (Core Projects, Lighthouse Activities, etc.) should have a focal point for carbon emissions calculations. This will either be a staff member of an International Office or the WCRP Secretariat Officer responsible for a given activity.

The procedure each year will be:

  • A WCRP travel carbon calculation template will be sent by the WCRP Secretariat to all focal points in January (or as soon as possible) each year (e.g., in year n). Section 4 provides a list of meetings and events that should be included in the calculation sheet.
  • In January of the following year (e.g., in year n+1), the finalized travel information sheet for the preceding calendar year should be sent to the WCRP Secretariat together with a brief report (less than a page) outlining any information needed to interpret the calculations and any difficulties encountered.

The WCRP Secretariat will collate all the data submitted and arrange for the annual carbon calculation for WCRP travel to be made (this is conducted externally). Once the carbon calculation is completed, a report on the annual carbon calculation for WCRP travel will be compiled in time for the annual JSC meeting the same year. This should include a detailed report for the JSC (closed report: the full break down from each group is reported) and a summary report (where the carbon footprint of WCRP travel as a whole is reported, with statistics that don’t single out any individual group or activity) to be made available publicly, including on the WCRP website.

4. Travel to be included in the carbon calculation

The carbon calculation of WCRP travel is for all attendees to the following meetings and events:

  • Joint Scientific Committee (JSC) Sessions
  • Steering group1 and their sub-activity (working groups or equivalent) meetings
  • Conferences, workshops, ECR events (including seasonal schools)
  • Any other travel by official representatives of WCRP2

Travel can be by air, rail, coach, taxi, car, ship, cycling, and walking. Terminal travel (e.g., travel to and from an airport), should also be included if this is known. If the full details of travel are not known, a best estimate should be provided noting any assumptions made in the appropriate place in the calculation sheet or in the end of year report. It is noted that for large events of more than a few hundred participants, estimations may be needed to allow a calculation to be made. In order to ensure that we take account of a reduction in total carbon emissions due to online meeting participation, participants who attend a meeting online, should be reported as remote attendees. If one of the above meetings is organized back-to-back with another meeting, total emissions for each participant should be recorded as 50% of the total estimate.

5. Hybrid and online meetings

It is recommended that all in-person meetings are hybrid to allow remote participation.

6. Goals and measuring progress

WCRP carbon emissions from travel in 2023 will be used as a baseline for a reduction in subsequent years. WCRP Open Science Conference (held in October 2023) emissions will not be included in order not to inflate the baseline estimate. The goal will be to reduce travel from the 2023 baseline by 75% by 2030. At the annual JSC Session progress towards this target will be assessed.

1 Steering Group refers to Core Project Scientific Steering Groups (SSGs), and all of the highest-level steering committees (e.g., Lighthouse Activity Steering Groups).
2 Attendance to a meeting or event as an official representative of WCRP or of one of its core projects or activities.

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