If airlines were a country they’d be one of the world’s top 10 greenhouse gas emitters

ariplane

(Unsplash, 2019)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Charlotte Edmond, Formative Content


Greta Thunberg’s mum has stopped taking flights. The teenage climate activist’s mother is one of a growing number of Swedes keeping their feet on the ground in a bid to help the planet. They even a name for it – flygskam, or flight shame.

And there’s a reason the movement is gathering momentum: the aviation industry is one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gases in the world. In fact, if global aviation was a country, it would be among the 10 biggest emitters. That puts it ahead of nations like Brazil, Mexico, and the UK.

And the problem’s getting worse – emissions from flights are one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gases. The International Civil Aviation Organization forecasts that aviation emissions could grow by 300-700% by 2050.

Image: IEA/Carbon Brief

Clouds in the sky

A return trip from London to New York is about equivalent to someone heating their home for a year, in terms of the emissions generated. And that rapidly adds up. Figures from the International Air Transport Association project plane passenger numbers will double within two decades – that’s 8.2bn people flying each year.

A significant amount of this growth comes from Asia, where a burgeoning middle class is driving a booming tourism industry.

Image: World Bank

The top five most airborne countries now include three Asian nations – China, India and Japan – with China rapidly gaining on the US as the country with the most air passengers.

So what’s being done?

Planes are becoming more efficient. Industry body ATAG says the new Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, has fuel efficiency comparable to that of a modern compact car.

And alternative fuels such as biofuels – which can be made from algae or waste byproducts – are being investigated as a viable way of cutting emissions. Other innovations, like retrofitting winglets – devices on wing tips to reduce drag – have also helped cut CO2 output.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Moving to clean energy is key to combatting climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated. Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago.

Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.

Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.

To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy initiative is working with projects including the Partnering for Sustainable Energy Innovation, the Future of Electricity, the Global Battery Alliance and Scaling Renewable Energy to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

The International Civil Aviation Organization has set up CORSIA, the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, to try to measure the CO2 output from the industry and stabilize it at 2020 levels.

Image: Environmental Defense Fund

Some airlines offer passengers the chance to offset their emissions. Others, like KLM, are even encouraging people to fly less.

The flight-shaming trend is breaking into the consciousness of some Europeans, and threats from climate action groups such as Extinction Rebellion to close down London Heathrow with drones may force it onto the agendas of others.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Why flexible workspaces are the key to winning the talent war

“France will be there, it will always be there!”, French President Hollande says in a rather disorganised speech; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

Getting people with disabilities into work requires data

Business management: how can you introduce new ideas?

Trump’s Russophiles under investigation, Europe remains ‘en garde’

The new Kiev rulers ask $35 billion from the West

Coding in Namibia: UN supports young women’s computing career dreams

Healthcare’s a human right, not ‘a privilege for the rich’ UNAIDS argues at Davos

Why precision medicine is the future of healthcare

Medical students: catalysts to close the gender gap

New book honours UN women who made HERstory

Cameroon: Clear ‘window of opportunity’ to solve crises rooted in violence – Bachelet

Around 52 million in Near East, North Africa, suffering chronic undernourishment, new UN food agency report reveals

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: The health of capitalism won’t be the only worry for those who head for Davos

Mergers: Commission approves Varta AG’s acquisition of Energizer’s divestment business, subject to conditions

Environmental labelling, information and management schemes are central to the circular economy

Negotiated two-State solution still ‘the only option’ for Palestine: Guterres

Air pollution: How to end the deaths of 7 million people per year

4 ways blockchain will transform the mining and metals industry

Pollution could be harming every part of your body. Here’s how

UN human rights ruling could boost climate change asylum claims

A Sting Exclusive: “The competitiveness of Europe depends on a digital single market”, EPP President Joseph Daul highlights live from European Business Summit 2015

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of Transat by Air Canada

MEPs want ambitious funding for cross-border projects to connect people

WHO chief underscores need to address climate change following visit to Bahamas

Humanitarian aid: €7 million for disaster preparedness in Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region

2018 Golden Pen of Freedom Awarded to Maria Ressa of the Philippines

Who is first (and last) in the race to build a workforce fit for the future?

We won’t win the online security war without people power

4 ways the circular economy can help heavy industry reduce emissions

EU prepares a banking union amidst financial ruins

A ‘strong and united Europe’ has never been more needed, declares UN chief Guterres

Here are five ways we can make mental healthcare better

Guterres expresses ‘grave concern’ following explosion at large political rally for reform-minded Ethiopian Prime Minister

Coronavirus: Commission concludes exploratory talks with Valneva to secure a new potential vaccine

2013, a Political Odyssey: What future for Italy?

3+1 issues to haunt tomorrow’s EU Summit

‘Good enough’ global cooperation is key to our survival

5 amazing schools that will make you wish you were young again

FROM THE FIELD: Finding refuge in the ‘beautiful game’

There is a forgotten solution to climate change that we must invest in – nature

Coronavirus: a Disease that spreads as fastly as its fake news

How data is transforming the way we care for the ocean

This German supermarket’s shelves are filled with food other stores won’t sell

How trust and collaboration are key in India’s last mile response to the COVID-19 crisis

The European Sting writes down the history LIVE from G20 Leaders’ Summit in Turkey

At UN, Middle East countries discuss steps towards regional nuclear-free zone

Banking package: Parliament and Council reach an agreement

Coronavirus vs flu: how do they compare?

Autumn 2020 Economic Forecast: Rebound interrupted as resurgence of pandemic deepens uncertainty

Globally, youth are the largest poverty-stricken group, says new UN report

How a bionic arm is helping one little girl enjoy the things most take for granted

If you build it, they will come: Why infrastructure is crucial to tourism growth and competitiveness

7 steps to becoming a ‘CEO Academy’

Towards the Rise of the United States of the Atlantic?

How personalized care can tackle the late-life loneliness epidemic

Vaccines: contract between European Commission and AstraZeneca now published

There is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land

Are we letting politicians play with migrants’ health?

Mobile technology facilitating social distance in the middle of a pandemic

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s