A role model for environmentally responsible research

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Dr. Fabiola Gianotti, Director-General. (Image: CERN)

Among the 626 hectares forests, meadows, agricultural and recreational land under CERN’s stewardship are 211 hectares devoted to fundamental research. This makes CERN an integral part of its environment: a responsibility we take very seriously, both within the spaces we manage and beyond.

Over recent years, CERN has become a byword for excellence in research, and has also established itself as a model for technological developments, training and education, and scientific collaboration across borders. Today, more than ever, science’s flag-bearers need to demonstrate their relevance, their engagement, and their integration into society as a whole. That’s why it is my pleasure to introduce CERN’s first environment report.

At CERN, we strive for excellence in everything we do, from our core mission of designing, building and operating a unique collection of particle accelerators and detectors, to deploying modern policies in areas ranging from human resources to the protection of the environment. CERN takes environmental considerations into account when designing new programmes, and as environmental awareness has risen over recent decades, we have also become increasingly pro-active in identifying societal applications of the technologies we develop, some with potential for environmental protection. The vast superconducting installations needed for the LHC, for example, are a proving ground for technologies that may in the future improve the efficiency of electricity distribution networks. Over recent years, substantial financial and human resources have been invested to minimise the impact of our facilities on the environment and foster technological developments for environmental applications.

In this report, we set out a range of environmental indicators identified as being the most significant at CERN through careful consultation with internal and external stakeholders, along with their current status, and ambitious but realistic goals for each of them. It is our vision for CERN to be a role model for environmentally responsible research. This report is important in that respect, not only in terms of open and transparent reporting, but also as a tool to help us to achieve those goals.

Fabiola Gianotti, Director-General

Effective structures for environmental management

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Frédérick Bordry, Director for Accelerators and Technology (Image: CERN)

CERN’s particle accelerators and detectors bring great benefit to society in the form of knowledge and innovation, training and international collaboration. They are also big consumers of energy, and they generate an environmental footprint in various ways. This is an inescapable fact, and one that CERN has always taken into consideration when designing new facilities. For example, in the 1990s when our current flagship facility, the Large Hadron Collider, LHC, was being designed, ozone destruction was a major environmental concern. The gas mixtures necessary for the effective operation of the LHC’s particle detectors were therefore designed to be ozone-friendly. Two decades on, environmental priorities have evolved, and so must we. It is in this context that CERN has established a range of bodies to manage its environmental footprint.

The CERN Environmental Protection Steering board, CEPS, and the Energy Management Panel, EMP, are foremost among these. CEPS has a mandate to study and prioritise environmental actions, and, following management approval, to implement concrete measures for improvement. The EMP examines CERN’s energy use and identifies areas where consumption can be reduced. Together, they make a significant contribution to ensuring that CERN is a good custodian of the environment. Much of this report stems from their work.

Beyond the walls of the Laboratory, we also enjoy strong links with the regulatory bodies of our two Host States, and have established tripartite agreements with them in the areas of radiation protection and the environment. CERN was also a founding partner in a series of workshops on Energy for Sustainable Science, which seek to establish a culture of energy and environmental awareness across the research infrastructure community.

Frédérick Bordry, Director for Accelerators and Technology

A strong environmental policy

Dr. Doris Forkel-Wirth, Head of the Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Protection Unit (Image: CERN)

The Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Protection Unit, HSE, is the CERN body responsible for monitoring and advising on best practices for minimising CERN’s environmental footprint. In addition, it is responsible for radiation protection, occupational health surveillance of its workers, and the Fire and Rescue Service. Crucially, it is the keeper of CERN’s Safety Policy, the Organization’s reference document for all matters relating to health, safety and environmental protection. HSE chairs the CERN Environmental Protection Steering board, CEPS.

The Safety Policy includes the explicit goal of limiting the impact of the Organization’s activities on the environment, stipulates collaboration with Host State authorities in matters of environmental protection, and assigns responsibility for the implementation of the Policy to the Director-General, assisted by the HSE Unit. It highlights the commitment of the CERN management, and provides a robust framework for environmental protection at CERN.

Doris Forkel-Wirth, Head of the Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Protection Unit

CERN and the Sustainable Development Goals

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Charlotte Warakaulle, Director for International Relations (Image: CERN)

As an intergovernmental organisation founded under the auspices of UNESCO, CERN has always enjoyed a close relationship with the United Nations. It’s therefore no surprise that CERN is fully-signed up to the UN’s sustainable development agenda, and in particular the current set of Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.

Over the years, the multilateral approach to sustainable development has tangibly improved the lives of literally billions of people, and the SDGs have equally lofty ambitions. There are 169 targets in total, divided across 17 goals ranging from eliminating poverty and hunger to promoting peace and justice through strong institutions.

CERN contributes to several of the 17 SDGs. Techniques derived from CERN technology make important contributions to health and well-being: goal number three. We play a valuable role in providing education and inspiration for careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM): goal number four. We foster innovation, goal nine, across a range of disciplines, including areas that can contribute to environmental protection. Goal 16 promotes peaceful and inclusive societies, which is not only in our DNA, but also in our governing convention. Goal 17 aims to revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development. CERN is a model for global cooperation in science, inspiring and providing practical guidance in international collaboration.

Charlotte Warakaulle, Director for International Relations

Learn more

Questions regarding this report may be addressed to Environment.report@cern.ch.

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Explore CERN and the Environment (Leaving the report site)
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