Quick fixes could cut climate impact

13th Nov 2007

Aviation’s role in climate change could be reduced easily by eliminating
needless emissions and enabling consumers to make informed choices about how
to travel, says a report published by the International Institute for
Environment and Development (IIED) in association with the International
Centre for Responsible Tourism.

The report, which IIED commissioned from the Carbon Consultancy, will be
launched at the travel sector’s annual World Travel Market exhibition in
London to mark World Responsible Tourism Day.

It says that all who benefit from aviation have a collective responsibility
for reducing emissions, highlights avoidable greenhouse-gas emissions, and
recommends ways to reduce the sector’s contribution to climate change
quickly and easily.

Topping the list is a call for real and standardised reporting of airline
emissions and eco-labelling of flights.

“The statistics surrounding aviation emissions are confusing for consumers
because they are based upon a wide variety of source material,” says the
report’s author Hugo Kimber of the Carbon Consultancy. “Even individual
flight emissions calculations can vary by as much as 300% for the same
flight depending on the methods used.”


The report calls for standard fuel-use reporting by airlines to allow the
creation of a flight-labelling scheme. This would help consumers to choose
routes and airlines that emit less, and which in turn would encourage
airlines to adopt more efficient technology and aircraft deployment.

The report adds that more than 20% of aviation capacity flies empty, that
indirect flights can emit up to 29% more carbon dioxide than direct ones,
and that the use of aircraft by individual airlines can make a big
difference to emissions. But passengers are left in the dark about these
figures and so can’t exercise consumer power to reduce emissions.

“The environmental impact of aviation is often considered in relation to
global emissions, but consumers want to know what the impact of their flight
choice will be using standard reporting guidelines.” says Kimber. “It is
important to enable flight purchasing based upon efficiency but you can’t do
that without labelling, and for that you need to know how much fuel each
airline/aircraft uses in relation to passengers and cargo.”

“Flying produces considerable global benefits, especially for developing
countries but at an environmental cost which it must be assessed against by
consumers and policymakers,” adds Kimber.

“Our analysis shows that it should be possible for government, consumers and
business to make some short-term impacts on emissions reduction via eco
labelling, information delivery and to start reflecting the environmental
cost in ticket prices.”

One quick fix would be to reduce the baggage allowance. A 5-kilogram
reduction in baggage allowance on the main short haul route from London to
Spain would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 54,400 to 68,000 tonnes - the
higher value equating to 2,950 flights from London to Malaga.

The report calls for emissions from aviation to be included in the European
carbon-trading system with an interim efficiency-based eco-tax to reflect
the cost of carbon. It urges European governments to adopt the proposed
Single European Sky - a regional air traffic control system that would
eliminate the annual 12 million tonnes of needless carbon dioxide emissions
created by national systems.

It says airport expansion should only take place if demand for flying is
still rising after passengers and airlines start to bear its environmental
cost in line with recommendations already made to the UK government.

“Aviation brings benefits to governments, the public, business and the
airlines themselves but nobody is covering the environmental costs,” says
Dilys Roe, the senior researcher at IIED who commissioned the study. She
points out that air travel is extremely important to the economies of poor
countries, both in terms of bringing tourist revenue and exporting fresh
produce, so it is key that emission reduction policies do not harm the poor.

“Cutting emissions from aviation is everyone’s responsibility and in
everyone’s interests - make it your responsibility too,” says Harold Goodwin
of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan
University. “This report show sensible ways to do this in a way that does
not harm those who have contributed least to the problem and will suffer
most from its impacts.” 


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