Last Saturday was World Environment Day, and a fitting occasion for us to launch CERN’s Year of Environmental Awareness, an initiative allowing everyone involved with the Laboratory to discover CERN’s work in the field of environmental protection, and to find out how we can all contribute.
We are launching the initiative in 2021 for good reason. CERN has always taken pains to limit its environmental impact and reports regularly to Host State authorities. Over recent years, however, we have upped our game considerably, by allocating substantial resources, human and financial, and putting in place bodies to examine, manage and reduce where possible our environmental footprint. The CERN Environmental Protection Steering board (CEPS) studies and prioritises environmental actions and, following management approval, supervises the implementation of concrete measures for improvement. The Energy Management Panel (EMP) examines CERN’s energy use and identifies areas where consumption can be reduced and/or energy can be re-used. Working with departments and units across the Organization, both make a tangible difference, as you can discover in the pages of CERN’s biennial environment reports, and through events and articles over the coming year. Last year was the first time that CERN produced a public-facing environment report. It covered the period 2017-2018. The 2019-2020 report will be released this September, and we are committed to publishing a report every two years from then on.
Beyond the walls of the Laboratory, CERN has also been increasingly engaged with environmental protection. In 2007, we established a tripartite environment committee with the environmental authorities of the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland, and the Sub-Préfectures of Gex and Nantua, France, to look at CERN activities that impact the neighbouring region. Three years later, we extended our engagement through another tripartite committee with the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health (OFSP) and the French Nuclear Authority (ASN) to replace previously existing bilateral agreements covering matters of radiation protection and safety at CERN.
Several initiatives to limit CERN’s impact on the environment and increase sustainability have been identified and implemented. Examples include the renovation of the East Hall during LS2, which reduces the overall energy consumption of the facility by 90%. The heat recovery project from the LHC at point 8, which will contribute to heating a new residential development in Ferney-Voltaire is another example. A new retention basin has been built to handle the outflows from the Prévessin site, reducing the risk of flooding in case of heavy rainfall. Looking ahead, new buildings at CERN are being designed with the highest standards in terms of environmental protection. The new computing centre at Prévessin will include heat recovery to heat the site, and Science Gateway is a prime example of green architecture, being powered by solar energy, and surrounded by a veritable forest of trees.
Increasing awareness of the importance of environmental matters has been reflected in the growing place the environment occupies in plans for the future of our field. The 2020 update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics stipulates that not only should minimising the environmental impact of future facilities be integrated into any new project from the start, but that technologies developed for such facilities that have the potential to contribute to environmental management more widely in society should be actively pursued.
CERN’s particle accelerator, detector and computing technologies already bring great benefit to society in the form of knowledge and innovation, training, and international collaboration. As we move forward, we will be striving to minimise the environmental impact of our facilities, while at the same time maximising their potential for environmental protection.
Protecting the environment is a priority at CERN, and it is something we can and should all contribute to. Every one of us has an important role to play in implementing CERN’s policies and embodying CERN’s role in promoting environmental best practice in the world of research. Find out how you can be involved by embracing CERN’s Year of Environment Awareness, starting with the launch event on 24 June at 2.00 p.m. Together, we can ensure a sustainable future for particle physics at CERN, make the laboratory a role model for environmentally responsible research and contribute to the societal efforts to protect the planet.
The link to the webcast of the Town Hall will be accessible on the event's Indico page.