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Ireland Hopes to Lead the Way in Reducing the Carbon Footprint

Ireland Hopes to Lead the Way in Reducing the Carbon Footprint

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Greenhouse gas initiatives take place at the Greenhouse Gases and Animal Agriculture conference in Dublin

TEAGASC, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development authority at the University College of Dublin, is organizing a conference to focus on the increasing greenhouse gas emissions of animals. The conference is to start where they left off at their last meeting in 2010, and plan on how they can lessen some of these harmful gases.

A consensus in European energy backed a new 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target, as reported by UPI in April. Pat Rabbitte, the Irish Energy Minister, said the EU commissioner's call for a 40 percent reduction of GHG levels by 2030 (starting in 1990) requires immediate action.

Teagasc reported Dr. Tommy Boland, a Doctor of Food Science from University College of Dublin said, “Leading researchers will deal with topics such as methane emissions from ruminants, emissions from manure, how to assess emissions from farm systems, and how solutions can be put into practice,” regarding the conference goals earlier this month.

As of April, the percentage reduction was roughly estimated to be 20 percent by 2020, with expectations of 40 percent by 2030, and the EU has to find inventions to be backed in able to achieve this very necessary goal.

Daily Briefing

There is widespread coverage of the latest “emissions gap” report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), with the Washington Post leading on the angle that the “world’s wealthy will need to reduce their carbon footprints by a factor of 30 to help put the planet on a path to curb the ever-worsening impacts of climate change”. It continues: “Currently, the emissions attributable to the richest 1% of the global population account for more than double those of the poorest 50%. Shifting that balance, researchers found, will require swift and substantial lifestyle changes.” BBC News also chooses that line to lead its own coverage of the UNEP report, saying: “Their emissions gap report finds that the richest will need to rapidly cut their CO2 footprints to avoid dangerous warming this century. The study finds that the global Covid-19 shutdown will have little long term impact on the climate. But a strong, green recovery could limit the rise in temperatures to 2C. The study…underlines the chasm between the level of emissions consistent with keeping temperatures down and what’s happening in the real world. It predicts that while carbon production will have tumbled by around 7% this year because of the pandemic, this would only reduce warming by 0.01C by 2050.” The Guardian quotes UNEP executive director Inger Andersen: “We are going in the wrong direction. We had lockdown. Some people think that gave us a bonanza. But it doesn’t. Just because you stop running the tap for a moment or two, that doesn’t change the fact that the bathtub is still full.” The New York Times, Independent, Axios and Reuters are among the other outlets covering the report. Carbon Brief has also summarised the report.

Meanwhile, the Guardian has an “exclusive” interview with UN secretary general António Guterres in which, according to the paper, he says that “rich countries will miss a key promise they made to the poor world on the climate crisis by failing to provide the money necessary for them to cope with its effects, damaging the prospects for global action”.

Separately, BusinessGreen covers BloombergNEF’s latest annual ClimateScope report which shows that “clean energy investment in developing countries has been disrupted by the pandemic, after reaching record levels in 2019”. It adds: “The latest edition of the influential analyst’s annual ClimateScope survey reveals that total foreign direct clean energy investment in developing countries hit $32bn mark last year as solar plants and wind farms became increasingly cost competitive when compared to fossil fuel generation projects…However, BloombergNEF warns that clean energy investors’ appetite for projects in emerging markets has been dented by the pandemic.” Bloomberg also covers the story.

Finally, BusinessGreen also reports on a “major new study” from consultancy Systemiq, which says that “zero emission technologies can ‘outcompete’ older carbon-intensive industries across multiple sectors worldwide within a decade, as investors, businesses, governments and consumers demand a shift towards cleaner, greener solutions throughout the 2020s”. It continues: “The report, titled The Paris Effect, details how clean and green solutions are on course to become competitive with dirtier counterparts in sectors accounting for over 70% of global emissions by 2030, which could deliver a global green economy capable of generating 35m jobs and a healthier society. The projections mark a significant shift from five years ago when there were was almost no green competition to fossil fuels at all.” The Independent also covers the report, while the BBC News has coverage in a wider feature headlined: “Climate change: Have countries kept their promises?”.

The Financial Times says that a “broad group of female climate leaders have called on the UN climate summit leadership to urgently address a lack of women in the team set to steer next year’s international talks in the UK”. It adds: “More than 400 influential women are seeking changes to the male-dominated leadership for the UN climate talks hosted by the UK in Glasgow, in an open letter addressed to prime minister Boris Johnson and Alok Sharma, the business secretary. The heavyweight signatories – including Paris agreement co-author Laurence Tubiana and the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson – said it was crucial for successful negotiations and decision-making that women were included at the top levels at the summit, known as COP26.” The FT explains that “although 45% of the senior management in the COP26 unit are women, according to the government, many are in supporting and communications positions, rather than negotiating roles”. It continues: “Six of the eight most senior members are men – including the chief executive, the UK’s lead climate negotiator, the UK’s COP26 envoy and the COP president, after Mr Sharma himself replaced former president Claire O’Neill, previously UK energy minister, abruptly in February.” The Sun also covers the story in its print edition.

Meanwhile, Sky News reports the views of the UK’s former climate secretary, Amber Rudd, who says the COP26 presidency is so critical that it must become a full-time role. She tells the broadcaster: “My own view is that whoever is the president of the COP – and Alok [Sharma] absolutely could do a great job at this – should be doing nothing else. This is not a side hustle, it’s the most important event taking place next year. We can’t afford to make this a part-time job.” The Independent reports the views of former US vice-president Al Gore who has told an online conference that COP26 must mark “a new era, with humanity finally going serious…this existential threat to our existence”.

Reuters says that “people around the world will have a chance to deliberate about responses to climate change under plans to convene a ‘Global Citizens’ Assembly’ to inform [COP26]”. The newswire adds: “The project aims to build on similar initiatives in countries such as Ireland, France and Canada, where citizens’ assemblies have given politicians space to act by generating ambitious proposals on divisive issues.” The i newspaper says “it could mean a bus driver from Britain, a sheep farmer from New Zealand and a factory worker from India all working together on the best way to cut global emissions”.

In other UK-focused news, the i newspaper says that “38 regional leaders from Edinburgh to Cornwall are pledging to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 – five years earlier than the target set by the UK government”. And the Daily Telegraph reports that “Boris Johnson has denied the government lacks credibility on climate change over its backing for fossil fuel projects overseas, as it emerged it has previously supported an airport in Uganda’s burgeoning oil hub with a £240m loan”.

Australia’s energy minister Angus Taylor has said that the country could beat its target for cutting carbon emissions under the Paris Agreement by 2030 without counting credits from overachieving on its targets in previous climate pacts, reports Reuters. The newswire adds: “The latest projection marked a sharp shift for one of the world’s biggest emitters per capita and came ahead of the UN’s Climate Ambition Summit on Saturday, the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Australia’s policy of using old carbon credits to count toward future emissions targets was a major sticking point at the UN climate summit a year ago when big emitters were pushed to take more aggressive action to curb global warming…Australia’s emissions are now projected to be 29% below 2005 levels by 2030 compared with its Paris accord target of cutting carbon emissions by 26% to 28%.” The Guardian says: “Scott Morrison wanted to unveil the shift at a global leaders’ climate ambition summit this weekend, and telegraphed that he would make a contribution, but it remains uncertain whether Australia will be granted a speaking slot. More than 70 countries had confirmed speaking berths on Wednesday. While the ultimate landing point remains unclear, the nations organising the summit say significant commitments will be required, and close observers of climate talks have said they believe it is unlikely Morrison will be asked to speak.” Another Guardian article reports that “the EU has urged Australia and other countries to step up their commitment to ‘actual emissions reductions’ and warned that an attempt to rely on surpluses achieved during the Kyoto protocol period could set a negative precedent”. Meanwhile, the New York Times has a news feature headlined: “It’s Australia’s first big blaze of the fire season. How bad will the summer get?”

Separately, the Guardian covers a new Oxfam report which says “New Zealand is not living up to its climate change promises when it comes to helping fund poorer countries adapt to a warming world”.

Brazil has announced it will aim for carbon neutrality by 2060, which, says Climate Home News, is “sparking anger among campaigners who say the pledge is meaningless and a deliberate distraction from president Jair Bolsonaro’s destruction of the Amazon rainforest”. CHN adds: “Brazil announced the ‘indicative’ goal in an updated submission to the UN on Wednesday, but did not match it with increased ambition in the coming decade. The targets of reducing emissions 37% by 2025 and 43% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, remain unchanged.” Bloomberg says: “Brazil will set a new goal to zero out carbon dioxide emissions by 2060 – or sooner, if it can raise $10bn a year from other countries.”

Reuters reports that the “New York state pension fund [has] committed to help curb climate change by transitioning its investments to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, making it the first US pension fund to set the goal by that date”. The newswire adds: “New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the move will put the fund, the third largest in the country, in a strong position for the future of a green economy mapped out in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate…The New York state Common Retirement Fund, which has an estimated valuation of about $226bn, is wrapping up its evaluation of nine oil sands companies, mainly in Canada and Russia, and will develop minimum standards for investments in shale oil and gas.” Axios says “the proposal, from America’s third-largest public pension fund, is one of the more significant moves in the divestment battle that’s been building over the last several years”. The New York Times covers the story and also carries a comment piece by veteran climate campaigner and author Bill McKibben who says: “It’s a huge win, obviously, for the activists who have fought for eight years to get Albany to divest from fossil fuel companies and for the global divestment campaign. Endowments and portfolios worth more than than $14 trillion have joined the fight…But it also represents something else: capitulations that taken together suggest that the once-dominant fossil fuel industry has reached a low in financial and political power.”


The New York Times has a long illustrated feature on how “California’s redwoods, sequoias and Joshua trees, [which] define the American West and nature’s resilience through the ages” have suffered this year from their “deadliest test” – wildfires fanned by climate change. The article says: “The wildfires that burned more than four million acres in California this year were both historic and prophetic, foreshadowing a future of more heat, more fires and more destruction. Among the victims, this year and in the years to come, are many of California’s oldest and most majestic trees, already in limited supply. In vastly different parts of the state, in unrelated ecosystems separated by hundreds of miles, scientists are drawing the same conclusion: If the past few years of wildfires were a statement about climate change, 2020 was the exclamation point.”

In a separate comment piece in the New York Times, ocean explorer Fabien Cousteau writes: “Many of us have experienced the magic and beauty of the ocean. Yet its vital connection to our daily lives – the ways in which it supplies the oxygen we breathe and nourishes the crops we eat – remains far less understood…Like my grandfather, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, I believe that we protect what we love, and love what we understand. We have the ability to dictate the magnitude of the coronavirus and climate crises if we can simply absorb the lessons of science, including the hard truth that devastation awaits if we act too late. We must learn that to be on nature’s side is to be on humanity’s side.”

And writing in the Guardian, Maria Fernanda Espinosa – an Ecuadorian politician and diplomat and a former president of the UN general assembly – explains why the “climate crisis should be at the heart of the global Covid recovery”.

The Daily Mail’s Stephen Glover rages against the Climate Change Committee’s latest report which advises the UK government to cut the nation’s emissions 78% by 2035 (as reported yesterday in detail by Carbon Brief). The columnist says: “Most people, I believe, are prepared to take climate change seriously, though they need to be reminded that the UK accounts for less than 1% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and that this country’s painful sacrifices won’t make much impact globally. What they do not appreciate is being instructed to spend large sums in an uncertain cause by rich people working for a shadowy and unaccountable quango which is guilty of rank hypocrisy.” Writing in the Daily Telegraph, climate sceptic columnist Ross Clark adopts a similar tone, saying: “It is easy to set targets, quite another to come up with practical measures to implement them at reasonable cost and without damaging side effects. The CCC is very enthusiastic for the former, while doing little to prove that it has achieved the latter.” City AM carries a comment piece by Anthony Catachanas, chief executive of Victory Hill Capital Group – a specialist investment firm that focuses on global energy infrastructure. He writes: “Grandiose plans for a green revolution are great, but first let’s fix our ageing electricity network.”


New research looks at alternatives to using a uniform carbon price – a fixed charge per tonne of CO2 emissions – as a way of achieving the mitigation goal of the Paris Agreement. The authors show that “a strategy of international financial transfers guided by moderate deviations from uniform carbon pricing could achieve the goal without straining either the economies or sovereignty of nations”. An accompanying News & Views article says the study indicates “that small deviations from a globally uniform carbon price can achieve the 2C goal with slightly higher mitigation costs, but much lower transfers”. Reducing financial transfers to poorer countries is “politically beneficial”, the authors say, “because they sometimes perceive a heavy reliance on international financial transfer as undermining their national sovereignty”.

How to reduce the environmental impact of your next virtual meeting

Before you scramble to clean your room or attempt to make your pajamas look a bit less like pajamas, here is a good excuse to keep your video off during your next virtual meeting: reducing your environmental impact. New research shows that if you turn your camera off during a videoconference, you can reduce your environmental footprint in that meeting by 96 percent.

Conducted by a team from MIT, Purdue University, and Yale University, the study uncovers the impacts that internet use has on the environment. This is especially significant considering that many countries have reported at least a 20 percent increase in internet use since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 lockdowns.

While the shift to a more digital world has made an impressive dent in global emissions overall — thanks in large part to the likely temporary emissions reductions associated with travel — the impact of our increasingly virtual lifestyles should not be overlooked.

“The goal of this paper is to raise awareness,” says Maryam Arbabzadeh, a postdoc at the MIT Energy Initiative and a co-author of the study. “It is great that we are reducing emissions in some sectors but at the same time, using the internet also has an environmental impact contributing to the aggregate. The electricity used to power the internet, with its associated carbon, water, and land footprints, isn’t the only thing impacting the environment the transmission and storage of data also requires water to cool the systems within them.”

One hour of streaming or videoconferencing can emit between 150 and 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide, depending on the service. By comparison, a car produces about 8,887 grams from burning one gallon of gasoline. That hour also requires 2-12 liters of water and a land area about the size of an iPad Mini. Those hours add up in our daily lives with all the time we’re spending on video — and so does the associated environmental footprint.

According to the researchers, if remote work continues through the end of 2021, the global carbon footprint could grow by 34.3 million tons in greenhouse gas emissions. To give a sense of the scale: This increase in emissions would require a forest twice the size of Portugal to fully sequester it all. Meanwhile, the associated water footprint would be enough to fill more than 300,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, and the land footprint would be equal to roughly the size of Los Angeles.

To store and transmit all of the data powering the internet, data centers consume enough electricity to account for 1 percent of global energy demand — which is more than the total consumption for many countries. Even before the pandemic, the internet’s carbon footprint had been increasing and accounted for about 3.7 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

While there have been studies evaluating the carbon footprint of internet data transmission, storage, and use, the associated water and land footprints have been largely overlooked. To address this gap, the researchers in this study analyze the three major environmental footprints — water, land, and carbon — as they pertain to internet use and infrastructure, providing a more holistic look at environmental impact. Their findings are published in Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

Using publicly available data, the researchers give a rough estimate of the carbon, water, and land footprints associated with each gigabyte of data used in common online apps such as Netflix, Instagram, TikTok, Zoom, and 14 other platforms, as well as general web surfing and online gaming. They find that the more video used, the higher the footprints.

A common streaming service, like Netflix or Hulu, requires 7 gigabytes per hour of high-quality video streaming, translating to an average of 441 g CO2e (grams per carbon dioxide equivalent) per hour. If someone is streaming for four hours a day at this quality for a month, the emissions rise to 53 kg CO2e. However, if that person were to instead stream in standard definition, the monthly footprint would only be 2.5 kg CO2e. That decision would save emissions equivalent to driving a car from Baltimore, Maryland to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, about 93 miles.

Now multiply these savings across 70 million users all streaming in standard definition rather than high definition. That behavioral change would result in a decrease of 3.5 million tons of CO2e — equating to the elimination of 1.7 million tons of coal, which is about 6% of the total monthly consumption of coal in the United States.

“Banking systems tell you the positive environmental impact of going paperless, but no one tells you the benefit of turning off your camera or reducing your streaming quality. So, without your consent, these platforms are increasing your environmental footprint,” says Kaveh Madan, who led and directed this study while a visiting fellow at the Yale MacMillan Center.

While many service providers and data centers have been working to improve operational efficiency and reduce their carbon footprints by diversifying their energy portfolios, measures still need to be taken to reduce the footprint of the product. A streaming service’s video quality is one of the largest determinants of its environmental footprint. Currently, the default for many services is high-definition, putting the onus on the user to reduce the quality of their video in order to improve their footprint. Not many people will be interested in reducing their video quality, especially if the benefits of this action are not well known.

“We need companies to give users the opportunity to make informed, sustainable choices,” says Arbabzadeh. “Companies could change their default actions to lead to less environmental impact, such as setting video quality to standard definition and allowing users to upgrade to high definition. This will also require policymakers to be involved — enacting regulations and requiring transparency about the environmental footprint of digital products to encourage both companies and users to make these changes.”

The researchers also look at specific countries to understand how different energy systems impact the environmental footprints for an average unit of energy used in data processing and transmission. The data show wide variation in carbon, land, and water intensity. In the United States, where natural gas and coal make up the largest share of electricity generation, the carbon footprint is 9 percent higher than the world median, but the water footprint is 45 percent lower and the land footprint is 58 percent lower. Meanwhile, in Brazil, where nearly 70 percent of the electricity comes from hydropower, the median carbon footprint is about 68 percent lower than the world median. The water footprint, on the other hand, is 210 percent higher than the world median, and increasing reliance on hydropower at the expense of fragile rainforest ecosystems has other substantial environmental costs.

“All of these sectors are related to each other,” says Arbabzadeh. “In data centers where electricity comes from a cleaner source, the emissions will be lower and if it's coming from fossil fuels, then the impact will be higher.”

“Right now, we have virtual meetings all over, and we’re spending more of our leisure time than ever streaming video content. There is definitely a paradigm shift,” she adds. “With some small behavior changes, like unsubscribing from junk emails or reducing cloud storage, we can have an impact on emissions. It is important that we raise public awareness so that, collectively, we can implement meaningful personal and systemic changes to reduce the internet’s environmental impact and successfully transition to a low-carbon economy.”

The study was supported by the MIT Energy Initiative, Purdue Climate Change Research Center, the Purdue Center for the Environment, and the Yale MacMillan Center.

Crypto and blockchain must accept they have a problem, then lead in sustainability

As the price of bitcoin hits record highs and cryptocurrencies become increasingly mainstream, the industry’s expanding carbon footprint becomes harder to ignore.

Just last week, Elon Musk announced that Tesla is suspending vehicle purchases using bitcoin due to the environmental impact of fossil fuels used in bitcoin mining. We applaud this decision, and it brings to light the severity of the situation — the industry needs to address crypto sustainability now or risk hindering crypto innovation and progress.

The market cap of bitcoin today is a whopping $1 trillion. As companies like PayPal, Visa and Square collectively invest billions in crypto, market participants need to lead in dramatically reducing the industry’s collective environmental impact.

The increasing demand for crypto means intensifying competition and higher energy use among mining operators. For example, during the second half of February, we saw the electricity consumption of BTC increase by more than 163% — from 265 TWh to 433 TWh — as the price skyrocketed.

Sustainability has become a topic of concern on the agendas of global and local leaders. The Biden administration rejoining the Paris climate accord was the first indication of this, and recently we’ve seen several federal and state agencies make statements that show how much of a priority it will be to address the global climate crisis.

A proposed New York bill aims to prohibit crypto mining centers from operating until the state can assess their full environmental impact. Earlier this year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission put out a call for public comment on climate disclosures as shareholders increasingly want information on what companies are doing in this regard, while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the amount of energy consumed in processing bitcoin is “staggering.” The United Kingdom announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% by 2030, and the prime minister launched an ambitious plan last year for a green industrial revolution.

Crypto is here to stay — this point is no longer up for debate. It is creating real-world benefits for businesses and consumers alike — benefits like faster, more reliable and cheaper transactions with greater transparency than ever before. But as the industry matures, sustainability must be at the center. It’s easier to build a more sustainable ecosystem now than to “reverse engineer” it at a later growth stage. Those in the cryptocurrency markets should consider the auto industry a canary: Carmakers are now retrofitting lower-carbon and carbon-neutral solutions at great cost and inconvenience.

Market participants need to actively work together to realize a low-emissions future powered by clean, renewable energy. Last month, the Crypto Climate Accord (CCA) launched with over 40 supporters — including Ripple, World Economic Forum, Energy Web Foundation, Rocky Mountain Institute and ConsenSys — and the goal to enable all of the world’s blockchains to be powered by 100% renewables by 2025.

Some industry participants are exploring renewable energy solutions, but the larger industry still has a long way to go. While 76% of hashers claim they are using renewable energy to power their activities, only 39% of hashing’s total energy consumption comes from renewables.

To make a meaningful impact, the industry needs to come up with a standard that’s open and transparent to measure the use of renewables and make renewable energy accessible and cheap for miners. The CCA is already working on such a standard. In addition, companies can pay for high-quality carbon offsets for remaining emissions — and perhaps even historical ones.

While the industry works to become more sustainable long term, there are green choices that can be made now, and some industry players are jumping on board. Fintechs like Stripe have created carbon renewal programs to encourage its customers and partners to be more sustainable.

Companies can partner with organizations, like Energy Web Foundation and the Renewable Energy Business Alliance, to decarbonize any blockchain. There are resources for those who want to access renewable energy sources and high-quality carbon offsets. Other options include using inherently low-carbon technologies, like the XRP Ledger, that don’t rely on proof-of-work (which involves mining) to help significantly reduce emissions for blockchains and cryptofinance.

The XRP Ledger is carbon-neutral and uses a validation and security algorithm called Federated Consensus that is approximately 120,000 times more energy-efficient than proof-of-work. Ethereum, the second-largest blockchain, is transitioning off proof-of-work to a much less energy-intensive validation mechanism called proof-of-stake. Proof-of-work systems are inefficient by design and, as such, will always require more energy to maintain forward progress.

The devastating impact of climate change is moving at an alarming speed. Making aspirational commitments to sustainability — or worse, denying the problem — isn’t enough. As with the Paris agreement, the industry needs real targets, collective action, innovation and shared accountability.

The good news? Solutions can be practical, market-driven and create value and growth for all. Together with climate advocates, clean tech industry leaders and global finance decision-makers, crypto can unite to position blockchain as the most sustainable path forward in creating a green, digital financial future.

How Hilton Is Cutting Its Environmental Footprint By Half

In 2018, Hilton announced that it will cut its environmental footprint in half and double its social impact investment by 2030. A year later, Senior Director of Responsibility Daniella Foster provides some insight on how the brand is working towards this goal.

Looking at New York City alone where Hilton has an array of properties, catering to different clienteles, from those paying $150 per night to more luxurious rooms that start at more than $500 a night, the global hospitality brand is adapting its sustainability practices for these very different, and often massive, properties.

Diarmuid Dwyer, for instance, is the General Manager at the Hilton Midtown, the largest hotel in New York City, and the largest Hilton in the continental US. With nearly 2,000 rooms and over 150,000 square feet of meeting place, this hotel is the perfect testing ground for Hilton's environmental goals. Dwyer breaks down how the hotel is slowly cutting back on its energy consumption and eliminating waste.

Esha Chhabra: In 2018, Hilton launched its Travel with Purpose 2030 Goals . Given Hilton's desire to cut down its carbon footprint, what is the company doing to achieve those goals and what kind of progress has been made?

Daniella Foster: Through these goals, Hilton is, as stated, committed to cut its environmental footprint in half and double its social impact investment. The company also became the first major hotel company to set approved science-based targets in line with the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce carbon emissions and will be the first to adopt a global standard for sustainable tourism.

Many of the 2030 goals represent huge initiatives: reducing water consumption and waste output by 50%, creating economic opportunities to support women, helping hard-to-reach youth find fulfilling careers and more. However, much like the hospitality industry, Hilton also focused on the details that can make all the difference, including sending zero soap to landfill. The company is already making incredible progress on its 2030 goals, and is committed to publishing its progress annually in the Corporate Responsibility report.

In order to track our progress, Hilton uses LightStay, a corporate responsibility measurement system to calculate, analyze and report the environmental and social impact at each of Hilton’s more than 5,700 hotels.

Chhabra: At the Hilton Midtown in New York, for example, I noticed the following: disposable cups being sent to rooms, plastic packaging, chemical-based cleaners being used by housekeeping, and single-use toiletries. Are these the kinds of things that the hotel would transition away from?

Foster: As part of our 2030 goals, Hilton has reduced our waste to landfill by 41% across our global portfolio, with a focus on improving recycling rates and reducing food waste and plastics usage at our hotels. We expanded our soap and amenity bottle recycling program to over 75% of our hotels, set a new brand standard to remove plastic straws, stir sticks and cocktail picks from all hotel operations and launched regional Plastics Reduction Task Forces to identify opportunities to reduce single-use plastics in our properties. The launch of our new food waste program has also contributed to our waste reduction.

Chhabra: Hilton Midtown is a massive operation. So how does the General Manager approach these issues of sustainability when there's a mix of clientele with different expectations from business travelers to folks on holiday?

Diarmuid Dwyer: Last year, Hilton asked 72,000 guests about their buying preferences and learned social, environmental and ethical considerations are important, especially to younger travelers who spend over $400 billion USD annually on travel. One-third of those surveyed said they actively seek information on a hotel company’s sustainability practices before booking, with nearly two-thirds saying they conduct research even if the information is not easily accessible. In an earlier survey, 60% of guests said a company’s environment and social efforts would have an increased impact on their booking decisions over the next 12 months.

While this information is more likely to be sought out by leisure travelers than business travelers (36% compared to 29%), both audiences are interested in how hotels are impacting the environment.

Our location lends unique opportunities for innovative endeavors. Due to a decreased local habitat, we’ve designated 16,000 square feet on the fifth-floor rooftop to house nearly half a million honey bees. We’ve also installed a rooftop cogeneration plant that provides clean electricity and heat to the building. This alone reduces our carbon footprint by 30% annually, producing 50% of the electricity needed, and 25% of the steam demand for our nearly 2,000 guest rooms.

Chhabra: Given the scale of the company, with so many large properties around the world, how will this transition to a more eco-friendly future take place? In small doses? Or in one fell swoop?

Foster: Often we pilot eco-friendly practices at our properties prior to rolling out across the enterprise. For example, one of our properties in Hawaii, Hilton Waikoloa Village, was the first to eliminate plastic straws in February 2018. Hilton recognizes that no one property or company can change the world on its own. The only way to truly move the needle is to work together. We are looking to eliminate straws from across all 5,700 of our properties this July.

We will continue to take these best practices and roll out across our hotels, similarly to how soap recycling became a brand standard across our Embassy Suites by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton brands.

Chhabra: Do the various brands within Hilton talk to each other? Would a more traditional property like Midtown be interacting with the Conrad in the city and learning from each other or do they operate primarily on their own properties?

Dwyer: Hilton properties share best eco-friendly practices not only on the island of Manhattan, but internationally and across all brands. New York City is a masterful microcosm of the American economy, regularly facing concerns before they hit smaller markets, especially issues that directly involve travel and tourism. We are often looked at to lead by example when it comes to pollution and waste in the hospitality industry. I’m proud to be part of the local communal cognizance that lowers our global carbon footprint and contributes to our sustainable economic growth.

Chhabra: What's the most challenging aspect of becoming more eco-friendly?

Foster: As a global company with more than 5,700 properties across the world, mobilizing our global operations and guests around our 2030 Goals takes time. For example, last year, we also announced Connected Room, a high-tech guest room that enables guests to personalize and control every aspect of their stay from their mobile devices. The technology gives guests the option to help conserve energy by syncing the air conditioning with their schedule and allow hotel operators to monitor how their hotels are managing energy in real-time to ensure they are effectively reducing environmental impact. Hilton currently has more than 3,500 Connected Rooms across 15 hotels and plans to roll out the technology to tens of thousands more rooms across hundreds of hotels in the United States.

You spin me ’round: a cylinder hovers next to a greased belt moving at just the right speed. Credit: M. P. Dalwadi et al./J. Fluid Mech.

Dark water borders chunks of iceberg broken off a West Antarctica glacier. The melting of the region’s ice sheet could allow the bedrock to rise, sloughing water into the ocean. Credit: NASA

Virgin Media Ireland signs new Low Carbon Pledge

Virgin’s ongoing initiatives are enabling Virgin Media to improve the environmental footprint of its network while also launching new products, increasing broadband speeds and exponential customer demand for data, where Virgin Media has expanded its gigabit network to just under one million homes in Ireland to date.

In today’s renewed Low Carbon Pledge, Virgin Media has committed to further recording and reducing their entire carbon footprint, both direct (from operations) and indirect emissions (through the supply chain) and reporting regularly on progress including through an annual Business in the Community Ireland Low Carbon Report. This will be reviewed and evolved on an ongoing basis, aligned to the latest climate science and Ireland’s climate action objectives.

“We at Virgin Media are delighted to be signing up to this renewed low carbon pledge supporting Ireland’s climate action objectives” said Peter McCarthy, Vice-President of Legal & Corporate Affairs, Virgin Media. “Virgin Media are actively engaging our business, operations, people and brand to create positive impacts for our customers, people and communities throughout Ireland and for the planet we all depend on for our wellbeing. Our target is to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% by 2025. We believe we will smash that target as we have already seen a reduction of nearly 30% since 2017 through such initiatives as a 100% switch to renewable energy, deploying solar energy panels across key sites and technical hubs, more energy efficient consumer hardware, improved data centre cooling systems and the commencement of electrification of the company’s vehicle fleet. Other areas include gradually removing non-eco consumables from the supply chain and continuing to offer products and experiences that use less power, reduce emissions, and cut down on waste.”

Tomás Sercovich, CEO of Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), added that climate action is a key priority for BITCI and its members and that having over 60 signatories who have signed up to the Low Carbon Pledge is a clear demonstration of the business community working together to lead to the net zero vision.

Last week, Virgin Media’s parent company Liberty Global (“Liberty Global”) (NASDAQ: LBTYA, LBTYB and LBTYK), one of the world’s leading converged video, broadband and communications companies, further demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by signing on as a founding member of the European Green Digital Coalition.

The coalition has been set up by the European Union to support the use of digital technologies as a key enabler for climate action, environmental sustainability and helping to reach UN Sustainable Development Goals. The founding members were announced by EU Commissioner Thierry Breton and the EU Presidency at the Digital Day 2021 event held in Lisbon, Portugal. By signing the European Green Digital Declaration, companies commit to establishing science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 and becoming climate neutral no later than 2040.

Endemol Shine UK to lead on reducing carbon footprint

Endemol Shine UK, working with BAFTA’s sustainability consortium Albert, has committed to training its entire workforce on effective ways to reduce carbon emissions.

It will be the first independent production group to train its entire staff using the specially designed training course from Albert to “marry specific information around climate change with practical ways of evaluating and reducing emissions.”

The course will provide staff with ideas and inspiration on how they can change working practices across the whole production process, and beyond, to further reduce carbon emissions in the work we do.

Endemol Shine UK HR and operations direction Bella Lambourne said: “I cannot think of anything more crucial to train our staff in.

“Our ambition is to ensure that the environmental impact of the decisions we make, both in the work we do and in our daily lives, is front of mind at all times and that we make positive, impactful change in every way we can across the whole business.”

The bespoke training will also consider how we communicate these issues and ideas within the programmes we make, in order to inspire as wide a change as possible.

It will be rolled out to over 600 staff including full time and freelancers, starting in early March.

Endemol Shine UK has worked closely as a consortium member of Albert since it was launched by BAFTA in 2011 to certify that our productions are working hard to reduce carbon emissions, and this latest initiative ties in with Endemol Shine’s overall commitments to sustainability and reducing single-use plastic across the group.

BAFTA head if industry sustainability Aaron Matthews said: “It’s fantastic that Endemol Shine UK is committing to training all its staff.

“Through experience, we know that our training provides the perfect platform to empower a production team.

“Providing them with the specific knowledge and tools they need to make meaningful changes to their working ways and reduce their impact.”

FACT SHEET: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Federal Government and Across the Supply Chain

The President is committed to addressing the climate change threat &ndash both by taking action here at home and showing leadership on the world stage. As part of his commitment to lead by example to curb the emissions that are driving climate change, today President Obama will issue an Executive Order that will cut the Federal Government&rsquos greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 40 percent over the next decade from 2008 levels -- saving taxpayers up to $18 billion in avoided energy costs -- and increase the share of electricity the Federal Government consumes from renewable sources to 30 percent. Complementing this effort, several major Federal suppliers are announcing commitments to cut their own GHG emissions. Today, the Administration is hosting a roundtable that will bring some of these large Federal suppliers together to discuss the benefits of their GHG reduction targets or to make their first-ever corporate commitments to disclose emissions and set new reduction goals.

Together, the combined results of the Federal Government actions and new supplier commitments will reduce GHG emissions by 26 million metric tons by 2025 from 2008 levels, the equivalent of taking nearly 5.5 million cars off the road for a year. And to encourage continued progress across the Federal supply chain, the Administration is releasing a new scorecard to publicly track self-reported emissions disclosure and progress for all major Federal suppliers, who together represent more than $187 billion in Federal spending and account for more than 40 percent of all Federal contract dollars.

Since the Federal Government is the single largest consumer of energy in the Nation, Federal emissions reductions and progress across the supply chain will have broad impacts. The new commitments announced today support the United States&rsquo international commitment to cut net GHG emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, which President Obama first announced in November 2014 as part of an historic agreement with China. Additionally, the goals build on the strong progress made by Federal agencies during the first six years of the Administration under President Obama&rsquos 2009 Executive Order on Federal Leadership on Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance, including reducing Federal GHG emissions by 17 percent &mdash which helped Federal agencies avoid $1.8 billion in cumulative energy costs &mdash and increasing the share of renewable energy consumption to 9 percent.

Leading by example in the Federal Government

With a footprint that includes 360,000 buildings, 650,000 fleet vehicles, and $445 billion spent annually on goods and services, the Federal Government&rsquos actions to reduce pollution, support renewable energy, and operate more efficiently can make a significant impact on national emissions. The President&rsquos action today will build on the Federal Government&rsquos significant progress in reducing emissions to drive further sustainability actions through the next decade. In addition to cutting emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy, the Executive Order outlines a number of additional measures to make the Federal Government&rsquos operations more sustainable, efficient and energy-secure while saving taxpayer dollars. Specifically, the Executive Order directs Federal agencies to:

  • Ensure 25 percent of their total energy (electric and thermal) consumption is from clean energy sources by 2025.
  • Reduce energy use in Federal buildings by 2.5 percent per year between 2015 and 2025.
  • Reduce per-mile GHG emissions from Federal fleets by 30 percent from 2014 levels by 2025, and increase the percentage of zero emission and plug in hybrid vehicles in Federal fleets.
  • Reduce water intensity in Federal buildings by 2 percent per year through 2025.

Encouraging progress across the supply chain

In addition to setting aggressive new efficiency standards for Federal agencies, the Administration is engaging with major Federal suppliers to encourage them to adopt similar practices. Today, the Administration is hosting a roundtable that will bring some of the largest Federal suppliers together to discuss the benefits of their GHG emission reduction targets or to make their first-ever corporate commitments to disclose emissions and set new reduction goals. The companies attending this roundtable each do more than $1 billion a year in business with the U.S. Government and together account for about $45 billion in Federal contract spending. Combined, they bring a total GHG reduction commitment of 5 million metric tons between 2008 and 2020, and have made the following specific commitments:

IBM, one of the world&rsquos largest providers of IT services and solutions, today announced two new goals:

  • Reduce CO2 emissions associated with IBM's energy consumption 35 percent by year-end 2020 against base year 2005 adjusted for acquisitions and divestitures. This represents an additional 20 percent reduction from year-end 2012 to year-end 2020 over the reductions achieved from 2005 to 2012 under the company&rsquos second generation goal.
  • Procure electricity from renewable sources for 20 percent of IBM's annual electricity consumption by 2020. IBM will contract over 800,000 megawatt-hours per year of renewable electricity -- an amount that can power a city of 100,000 people. The company will match its purchased renewable electricity directly to its operations as opposed to purchasing renewable energy certificates as offsets, making a clear connection between purchases and consumption.

IBM has been working on reducing GHG emissions and reporting results for 25 years, avoiding 3 million metric tons of CO2 emissions through conservation actions between 1990 and 2005 -- an amount equal to 40 percent of its 1990 emissions. With today&rsquos announcement, IBM is embarking on its third generation goal.

GE, a global infrastructure and finance company, launched a line of environmentally responsible products in 2005 to accelerate innovation and growth in a resource constrained world through efficient and intelligent solutions. By the end of 2014, GE had invested $15 billion in R&D to develop more efficient technologies and generated approximately $200 billion in revenue from these products. In addition GE committed in 2005 to reduce its water use and GHG emissions -- by the end of 2013, GE had reduced its global GHG emissions by 34 percent from 2004 and water use by 45 percent from 2006. To continue this progress, GE has announced 2020 commitments to invest a cumulative $25 billion in R&D and reduce water and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from a 2011 baseline.

Honeywell, a global technology and manufacturing company, today announced its third public goal to reduce GHG emissions throughout its global business operations. Honeywell exceeded its first public goal to reduce GHGs by more than 30 percent from a 2004 baseline in 2011, and then achieved an additional 15 percent per dollar of revenue reduction from 2011 levels by 2014, three years earlier than originally planned. Because of this progress, the company set its latest five-year goal earlier than anticipated by 2019 Honeywell expects to achieve an additional 10 percent per dollar of revenue reduction from 2013 levels. Honeywell also has exceeded goals to increase energy efficiency in its businesses. The company&rsquos facilities have implemented more than 2,100 energy efficiency projects including building automation/controls, lighting, and mechanical upgrades since 2010.

SRA International
SRA International, a provider of IT solutions and professional services to government organizations, today announced a goal to reduce its GHG emissions by 35 percent by FY 2020 relative to a FY 2007 baseline. SRA&rsquos FY 2007 Scope 1 and 2 GHG goal baseline is 6,267.9 metric tons CO2-equivalent (MTCO2e). SRA has further committed to reduce paper use by 75 percent per person (from FY 2007 use) and to achieve a 90 percent recycling rate by FY 2020. SRA has committed to conducting its operations in an environmentally responsible manner and minimizing its environmental impacts. In 2007, SRA launched its Go Green initiative. Since then, the company has applied sustainability practices to many of its business operations and has identified, assessed and implemented initiatives to help it operate more efficiently and with a lighter environmental footprint.

Humana Inc., a health and well-being company, announced today that it will work to reduce its GHG emissions by 5 percent from 2015 through 2017, from a 2013 baseline. In 2012, Humana announced energy-saving goals, identifying and investing in a variety of energy-efficiency initiatives, primarily focused on owned real estate. By the end of 2012, the company achieved a 6 percent reduction in energy consumption. During 2013, the company realized an 8 percent reduction in energy consumption and a 3 percent reduction in GHG emissions (approximately 3,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide) from a 2009 baseline. Humana&rsquos facilities represent one of the company&rsquos biggest opportunities to increase efficiencies and reduce emissions. Humana will continue to invest in capital projects to support improvements in various owned and leased sites, including its data centers, adopting LED lighting standards, expanding waste-reduction programs, and continuing to explore renewable energy options. In addition, Humana acknowledges that its employees play an important role in achieving a healthy planet, and pledges to continue enhancing engagement efforts with associates, helping them become better stewards of the environment in the workplace and at home.

CSC, a next-generation information technology (IT) services and solutions provider, today confirmed its intention to meet an absolute global greenhouse gas reduction target of 18 percent by 2018 (baseline 2012). Through implementing best practices in data center power and cooling, employee education and real estate footprint consolidation, CSC has already achieved 8.7 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in one year and eliminated 30,472 tons of Scope 1 (Direct), Scope 2 (Indirect) CO2e and Scope 3 (Travel) emissions across the business.

AECOM, a global infrastructure design, build, finance and operating services firm, today announced it will identify the GHG issues relevant to its operations by October 2015 and set reduction targets for 2018. The firm will report progress toward those targets and the strategies employed will be reported in its annual enterprise sustainability report each year starting in 2016. Given the nature of AECOM&rsquos business, the firm will report on GHG issues related to the energy consumed (conditioning, water and waste) in the spaces it occupies &mdash in conjunction with its landlords &mdash as well as in areas related to travel, purchasing and printing.

Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)
SAIC, a technology integrator for government and select commercial customers, announced today that it plans to publicly disclose its GHG emissions for calendar year 2014 to establish a baseline for emissions and to set a goal for a new GHG reduction target by March 2016. SAIC&rsquos GHG emissions for the first three months of operations (October &ndash December 2013) were 4,814 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. SAIC recognizes that GHG emissions are an important metric in gauging an organization&rsquos overall environmental impact and corporate commitment to mitigate negative impacts.

HP, one of the world&rsquos largest providers of information technology infrastructure, software, services, and solutions, is committed to reducing GHGs across its entire value chain. HP was the first global IT company to publish and verify its complete carbon footprint and take action to reduce its GHG emissions across all three parts of its value chain: operations, supply chain and products. HP set a goal to reduce total GHG emissions from its operations (Scope 1 and Scope 2) by 20 percent by 2020, compared to 2010 levels. This built on the company&rsquos previous goal of a 20 percent carbon reduction, which HP achieved in 2011&mdashtwo years early. In 2013, HP set the industry&rsquos first supply chain GHG emissions reduction goal: a 20 percent decrease in first-tier manufacturing and product transportation-related GHG emissions intensity by 2020, compared with 2010. In 2014, HP set a new goal to reduce the emissions intensity of its product portfolio by 40 percent by 2020 from a 2010 baseline, which will help HP and its customers worldwide reduce carbon impacts.

Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman Corporation, a global security company, is committed to environmental sustainability leadership. Northrop Grumman has announced its 2020 environmental sustainability goals: to reduce absolute GHG emissions 30 percent from 2010 levels to reduce water consumption by 20 percent from 2014 levels and to achieve a 70 percent solid waste diversion rate. As of year-end 2013, Northrop Grumman reduced its GHG emissions intensity by 26.5 percent relative to sales from 2008 levels and achieved its inaugural GHG reduction goal two years early. This performance resulted in the reduction of more than 260,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

United Technologies
United Technologies Corporation (UTC), a global aerospace and commercial building industries company, has reduced GHG emissions in its own operations by more than 30 percent since 2007. On the product side, the company&rsquos Carrier business calculates that installations of its high-efficiency heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems since 2000 have avoided the release of more than 164 million metrics tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. And UTC&rsquos Pratt & Whitney business&rsquos innovative PurePower jet engine cuts carbon emissions by over 3,600 metric tons per aircraft per year &ndash equal to planting more than 900,000 trees. UTC is committed to continuing its absolute GHG reduction and later this year will release new goals to be achieved by 2020.

CH2M HILL, an employee-owned global consulting firm, set an absolute GHG reduction goal of 25 percent between 2012 and 2017 for global operations and is well over halfway toward meeting the 2017 target. The company&rsquos emissions have declined through reduced energy consumption and GHG emissions for vehicles and buildings improved efficiency of four LEED- and ENERGY STAR-certified headquarter buildings and office energy conservation programs. Looking forward, CH2M HILL plans to continue its energy management efforts, renewable energy investments, sourcing of high-quality carbon offsets, and additional actions for management of its Scope 3 carbon footprint. In February, CH2M HILL received the Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management&mdashGoal Setting certificate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in collaboration with the Association of Climate Change Officers, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and The Climate Registry at the fourth annual Climate Leadership Awards. CH2M HILL was one of the first in its sector to publish a sustainability report in 2005.

ADS Inc., one of the largest providers of operational equipment, procurement, and logistics solutions to the Department of Defense and various Federal agencies, announced today that it plans to rapidly expand its environmentally friendly product offering and to actively begin promoting green technologies such as flex-fuel and hybrid power generation, micro grid systems, solar and wind fuel systems. Furthermore, ADS plans to benchmark its internal energy and fuel consumption and put forth a reduction plan in 2015.

Battelle, a leading nonprofit research and development organization, announced today that it is committed to reporting GHG emissions beginning in 2016. Battelle is also setting a goal to reduce GHG emissions by 25 percent by the year 2025. Battelle has been participating in a continuous energy improvement program and will use the statistical model established in 2013 as the baseline. Battelle is committed to managing and operating corporate facilities in a sustainable manner. In harmony with reporting and reducing GHG emissions, Battelle will make every effort to apply strategies for sustainable buildings, pollution prevention, waste reduction, electronic stewardship, sustainable acquisition, renewable energy, and water efficiency. Battelle has already made significant investments in sustainability including a net-zero energy building, energy efficiency, and environmental protection.

Tracking the editor's carbon footprint

𠇍o you, Dr Godlee, consider yourself a climate criminal? If yes, what punishment would you consider for yourself?” The question comes from MedGadget (, a web only publication, in response to an editorial co-written by the BMJ's editor, Fiona Godlee, which called for doctors “to lead by example on climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of medical conferences” (BMJ 2007334:324-5 doi: 10.1136/bmj.39125.468171.80). Tracking Dr Godlee's carbon footprint from her flights, the editors of the website wrote: “What we can say is that Dr Godlee is a ‘has been there, done that' kind of person. And we mean around the world, most likely in business class”𠅊nd accused her of hypocrisy.

In response, Hugh Montgomery of University College London, a member of the BMJ's Carbon Council (, drew attention to the fact that most of the trips made by Dr Godlee were within the UK, and that personal attacks such as these were 𠇊n unhelpful diversion.” He added: “Six were foreign trips made well before the Climate Change issue had been openly publicly raised or had reached the consciousness of most, and when debate even over its existence was continuing in many circles.”

To this, another respondent wrote that Dr Godlee had stressed the importance of global warming from 1996. Using data from Dr Godlee's carbon blog (, he wrote: 𠇌ounting her personal carbon footprint in the same post, she calculates it as 10.5 tonnes per year. 𠆊nd if you add in my travel by train and plane for work (22 tonnes), my tonnage is 32.5.' And this is after more than a decade of ‘grave' concern. As one of her resolutions considering all this she decides: ‘I'm putting climate change on the agenda for the next International Committee of Medical Journal Editors meeting because we've got to get the Americans on board somehow.' The tonnage for an average American is 7.2.”

Subsequently, MedGadget also set up an interactive map to monitor Dr Godlee's footprint ( 𠇏rom now on, we will be monitoring Dr Godlee's travels, as well as BMJ-sponsored events, and will bring that to your attention. We can assure you that we will not allow Dr Godlee to display the hypocrisy of her behavior without a response. Her editorials are nothing but ego trips of feel-good ideas of failed deeds.”

Dr Godlee responded on MedGadget: “I'm afraid you give me too much credit. I first wrote about climate change in the BMJ not in 1996 but in 1991 (BMJ 1991303:1254-6). And my business travel is rather more extensive than you have so far managed to document indeed were it not so I might be charged with failing to do my job. But I'm grateful to you for taking the trouble to track my carbon footprint and for keeping me on my toes about this.

“To your charge of hypocrisy I am tempted to hold my hand up and say that this is a fair cop. But on the basis of what I have written I don't think the charge stands. In our recent editorial, Ian Roberts and I said:

1 Climate change is important

2 Air travel contributes to it

3 Much air travel is unnecessary

4 We should try to reduce it and some are already doing so.

You don't argue with any of these substantive points.”

The editors of MedGadget were “pleased with the dialogue,” but “when a globe-trotting editor of a pulp publication tells us we should cut down on our activities, it rubs us the wrong way.” More importantly, they added: “Since deforestation's contribution to global warming outweighs that of air travel, we'd love to hear some announcements about BMJ phasing out their costly, wasteful paper products, and joining us in the realm of web-only publications” (

Their final advice is straightforward: “Instead of scolding and urging others to sacrifice, she should use her position as head of an esteemed scientific journal to promote research on the wastefulness of conferences and paper journals, and steer the British Medical Journal clear of those practices.”