In a fascinating new NBER research paper by economists at Chicago and LSE, pilots at Virgin Atlantic Airways were offered recognition and incentives if they successfully took steps to reduce fuel consumption. Separate targets were developed for pre-flight (how much fuel to load), during flight (course corrections), and runway decisions. Over the eight month study, the researchers found a robust response to the incentive programs, saving Virgin over $500k.
Usually when the topic of carbon abatement comes up, the response from economists and policy makers alike is to impose caps, require new equipment or charge a tax. This paper shows that there is another avenue that should be considered: adjust management decisions!
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