Airlines still failing on climate duties

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After contacting 28 of the world’s biggest airlines, UK news broadcaster the BBC recently reported that less than half offer carbon offsetting. These damning findings come after many airlines were slammed earlier this year for having insufficient CO2 emission goals.

Carbon offsetting is a scheme which allows passengers to balance out their carbon footprint by paying extra money towards environmental projects – as an example, the BBC noted that offsetting on a flight from London, UK to Malaga, Spain would cost around £4.

The aviation sector is aiming to halve its carbon footprint by 2050, and as such it is now obligational for all international carriers to annually report their CO2 emissions. However, less than half of the airlines approached offered a carbon offset scheme, and the vast majority declined to provide data on the number of passengers offsetting their flights during a one-year period, citing their figures as too low to report.

“We know that many airlines are looking at ways to reduce the environmental impact of their flights – so what can they do in the interim to help their passengers reduce their personal travel carbon footprint?” asked ClimateCare’s Edward Hanrahan. “If flying, it is essential that either the airline or the customer takes responsibility for the emissions from these flights. Some airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and Air New Zealand provide their passengers with easy-to-use carbon offset calculators. For maximum effectiveness, these should be well-signed and effectively promoted to passengers. It should also be made as simple as possible for passengers to offset, for example within the booking path and when checking-in online.”

Hanrahan added that, finally, airlines need to ensure they are working with a reputable partner with a strong delivery track record to ensure that they are providing and sufficiently promoting offsetting options. 

With the UK and Ireland recently being the first and second countries respectively to declare a national ‘climate emergency’, it’s a sad revelation to learn that the aviation industry, which currently accounts for two per cent of global human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, is not making more of an effort to tackle its carbon footprint. Let’s hope that the publication of these figures encourages the sector to not only up the ante in acting fast to reduce the impact of global warming, but to lead by example for the many people that rely on the service.