Sustainable air travel - is it possible?
12 Mar 2020

It's becoming impossible not to be aware of the impact of our travel choices - with the rise of the climate crisis in the media, the advent of new electric technologies and, unexpectedly, the affect of the Coronavirus on our emissions. 


Its surprising but Coronavirus is causing a greater reduction in CO2 emissions than any global government policy. But why?


We live in a global, connected world. Coronavirus has caused a lock-down in China resulting in less cars being driven, and almost zero flights operating – this alone has reduced emissions by 25%. International flights are being suspended from Europe to the USA which will result in further emissions reductions.


A return flight from London to New York emits an estimated 0.67 tonnes of CO2 per passenger, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). That's equivalent to 11% of the average annual emissions for a resident of the UK, or the same as those caused by someone living in Ghana in an entire year.


The first effort by the aviation companies to create a cleaner industry was the pursuit of biofuels. But the development of biofuels over the years have come under enormous criticism due to the use of palm oil and other unsustainable elements.


The holy grail of the aviation industry is to develop an electric plane but advancements in this area have been slow. However, tech companies are joining the race to create an electric aeroplane – disrupting the existing players in the aviation market which might help to move things along faster

This highlights the question – it is possible to travel internationally in a sustainable way?

Trains which run on clean electricity are a great option for travel, but what about flying, is it possible? Direct emissions from aviation account for about 3% of all global emissions (if it was a country it would be the 10th most polluting in the world). However, as of 2021, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will require all airlines to monitor and offset all of their emissions.


So, it is possible to fly sustainably at the moment? Probably not. But if you are going to fly you can always try and offset your share of emissions by donating to your airline’s nominated offsetting programme or by donating to the Gold Standard or Carbon Footprint.



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