The fact that climate change affects every one of us is already one of those that can not be ignored. And in the bright light of the endless race in becoming environmentally sustainable, governments and corporations are pointing at one another to highlight the flaws in competitors’ strategy towards “environmentally friendly”, “achieved sustainability” or “zero-waste” strategy. The airline business isn’t any exception when it comes to this – so here are the ways in which airlines strive to become no less eco-friendly than other conscious businesses.
With the history-long impact on the environment, especially when its comes to the greenhouse effect – which is directly related to enormous carbon emissions airplanes generate – even as those who didn’t have much choice to make its birds greener due to technological circumstances, finally are forced to demonstrate their solutions for fighting climate change. As for now, aviation is responsible for approximately two percent of all carbon dioxide which is emitted due to human-related activity.
It means, that the airplanes are putting two times more of this greenhouse gas into the atmosphere than all the volcanoes on Earth combined. That highly contributes to the fact that every environmental scientist will tell you about: current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is the highest that humanity can remember. What is more – it never was that high in approximately twenty million years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
The overall contribution of the aviation sector to global warming is about as twice as large, compared to two percent account into global human-related carbon emissions. When considering all the cumulative factors, such as nitrogen emissions, which in turn largely contribute to the forming of ozone in the upper troposphere, aviation account into global warming as such estimates to be around four percent of all human activity on Earth, according to an earlier report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The minimization of the environmental impact as an imperative
Not only environmental problems these days become more obvious than ever. With more than four billion annual air travelers worldwide – according to the data gathered by the International Air Transport Association – and the figures steadily increasing every year, the global airline industry, in fact, has no means for reducing the actual carbon emissions. Or has it? Anyway, there is a way of adjusting a significant compensation for the environment, emaciated by global warming – and the greenhouse effect itself.
Every year, more and more airlines are announcing undertaking in one or another form serious headway on their contributions to carbon offsets and overall minimization of their environmental impact – which, more often is demonstrated even as scaling back on their carbon emissions. The scenario, which only a few years ago seemed virtually impossible, today is actually taking its shape with the small Scottish regional airline Loganair announcement. It states that the airline will start using electric-powered planes by 2021 for their flights between Westray and Papa Westray – as a first step to reach Loganair’s aim of becoming carbon neutral in the foreseeable future.
While Loganair seems to have a bit better conditions than others for becoming the pioneer of electric aircraft, bigger international airlines – not to mention global giants – still obviously lack the technological and operational capacity for such historical breakthroughs. Still, the impact of the carbon emissions they produce on global warming isn’t the fact that it can be ignored anymore – so here the stage is being taken by international regulations. Such regulations, for example, now are committing all international air carriers to report their carbon dioxide emissions every year – with the aim to halve the industry’s carbon footprint by 2050.
The common goal that unites different nations
One of the most recent regulations is now obliging air carriers to offset any increase in emissions which would be beyond the levels reached by the end of this year. Such offsetting, of course, must be made by reducing emissions elsewhere. For such purpose, the United Nations have created The Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which is named as the first single industry’s attempt to wade into the global warming and climate change as such. As for now, more than seventy International Civil Aviation Organization member nations, including more than thirty developing countries, have voluntarily applied CORSIA. According to the plan, such applying on voluntary terms can be made only till 2026 with further plans to make it obligatory for all UN member nations thereafter.
So how does the airline industry apply carbon offsetting schemes and are there other ways to reduce their impact on global warming? One of the most well-known – but of course not the only, nor the most extensive one – examples of different approaches was recently announced by the big airline is the example of United Airlines. The industry’s giant recently told about its goal of reducing all its greenhouse gas emissions by half in the next thirty years, in comparison to its 2005 emissions levels. The airline has also mentioned some of its other aims, related to reducing air carrier’s environmental impact – such as the intention to rely even more on sustainable aviation biofuels, plans for investing in fuel-efficient aircraft, and eliminating single-use plastic stirring sticks and cocktail picks.
Another example from North America comes with the case of Alaska Airlines. It becomes one of the first air carriers in the region to set the goal of going completely transparent with the levels of carbon emissions that are put in the atmosphere during its operations – the exact figures of CO2 they produce are made public and the information is updated regularly. But the actual contribution to the reduction of carbon emission levels and airline’s impact on global warming comes in both obviously significant actions – such as the recent partnership with the Port of Seattle and Boeing, aiming to power more of its flights with sustainable biofuel – and a lot of meaningful details, for example, recycling all the grounds from coffee served in-flight into bio compost.
An obviously useful solution or a simple public relations trick?
European airlines do not compromise on innovative solutions here in any way. One of the most recent initiatives in the solution for raising environmental awareness while doing the business of commercial air transportation came from British Airways. Just a few months ago – in June 2019 to be precise – the flag carrier of the United Kingdom announced that starting from the end of last summer, all of its passengers, traveling in the World Traveller Plus cabin are going to receive renewed amenity kits which would be made from recycled materials.
While this move could be seen just as a public relations trick of overblowing the whole matter with no significant impact on the environmental changes – as a matter of fact, only a tiny minority of more than 44 million airline’s passengers, flying to its destinations all around the globe are actually using the World Traveller Plus service – it also can be understood as an expression of attitude, which not only spreads the message about how every small change benefits to the greater goal. It also encourages other players in the market of the airline business to brace up while facing a common challenge of the fight against global warming – using every opportunity to do so.
But there is another brilliantly smart initiative of British Airways which should undoubtedly contribute to the next great breakthrough in reducing the human impact on climate change – in an obviously significant way. The air carrier recently decided to invest in the construction of a plant that will turn household and commercial waste into fuel to be used for the airplanes operated by British Airways. In August 2019 the airline announced its plans to build such a plant on a site in Lincolnshire. According to the estimates presented, over 500,00 tonnes of waste will be transformed here into jet fuel every year.
The European low-cost eco-race
And what about other well-known European air carriers? In fact, almost every one of them already joined the race, competing in, as some of the state, reaching the common goal – but aiming to do it faster, more efficient, and, of course in the most prominent way – when compared to others. A very interesting example of peculiarity in doing so is demonstrated by well known Nordic carrier SAS Scandinavian Airlines. The airline not only made a significant investment for the major renewal of its fleet, ordering Airbus A320 neo, known for reducing fuel consumption as well as greenhouse gas emissions by no less than 15 percent but also announced the end of onboard duty-free items sale – with the single aim of reducing the overall weight carried on the aircraft, which, in turn, should result in even less fuel consumption and further reduction of the carbon dioxide emissions during every flight operated by SAS.
European low-cost carriers have also made corresponding decisions that should significantly reduce their environmental impact and well-known negative contribution to climate change – in a long term period. But, as in the most operational aspects, the low-cost business model of such airlines dictates a little bit different conditions even for such policy.
Here the burden of responsibility can be seen as a bit shifted, because, compared to the airlines mentioned before, the passenger is the one who’s encouraged to participate in carbon footprint offsetting programs, as it seems, much more often than the airline which is doing the business. As such participation, of course, isn’t obligatory, airlines like Ryanair are known for refusing to reveal how many of its passengers have actually taken part in the scheme of carbon offsetting proposed by the air carrier.
For the sake of truth, it is worth mentioning that there is a relatively strong base that can justify Ryanair’s advertising, in which the airline calls themselves ‘Europe’s greenest, cleanest airline’. Many of its operational aspects, which significantly cuts the airline’s running costs also greatly contribute to the reduction in fuel consumption – which, in turn, results in a remarkable decrease in the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
The most significant of those operational aspects – when it comes to ‘sustainability’ – are related to such practices as operating exclusively on point-to-point routes or adding winglets to wings of its airplanes. Ryanair is also known for single-engine taxiing between the runway and terminal which also significantly reduces both fuel consumption and emissions, which are known to be responsible for global warming.
Another European low-cost carrier, EasyJet is also communicating some of it’s ‘operational solutions’, originally dedicated to the cost reduction as key factors, which made them stand out among the others as a ‘greener’ airline. That includes the investment EasyJet made for the lightweight Recargo seats, using which, the planes obviously use less fuel thus emitting less carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The airline is also known for recently adding 6 more seats to its A320 aircraft which were already in use for years.
Every one of us can demonstrate significantly ‘greener’ attitude while travelling by air
But how an ordinary airline’s passenger can contribute to reducing the environmental impact of the services it is using? There is a lot of tips for those, who understand their responsibility for the contribution to the carbon emissions, the greenhouse effect, and global warming as such while flying on business trips or family vacations. These tips do not suggest to refuse using air transport at all – as there are other ways to minimize their impact on the environment. And every one of those who are using airline services can take advantage of the few simple suggestions for flying in more “eco-friendly” fashion.
First of all, using the services of low-cost carriers is the first simplest choice for those who want to become more eco-friendly flyers. Not only such airlines seem to have adopted every most unimaginable innovation to reduce the amounts of jet fuel they burn during the flights – low-cost carriers also are known for carrying the most passengers per flight on a single plane compared to other airlines operating identical aircraft.
Participation in a carbon offsetting program is also a great choice when it comes to reducing your personal contribution to global warming as an air traveler. If you have a choice between the service of an airline that does not offer participation in any such program and the one that does, obviously the better choice in terms of ‘eco-friendly’ travel will be the latter.
And no matter how eco-friendly your next flight will be, it can still be delayed, cancelled or overbooked – just like any other. In such a case, you can claim up to €600 in compensation for your disrupted flight. And if you already have experienced a flight disruption, contact Skycop – we are dedicated to helping you get the money you deserve. Fill our claim form now to find out if your flight is eligible for compensation – it’s completely free.