Concerns Grow Around the Globe About Aviation Industry's Environmental Impact

At the recent annual shareholders meeting for Deutsche Lufthansa AG, one shareholder stood up and challenged the airline’s executives for their failure to acknowledge a seven percent increase in the company’s carbon dioxide emissions.

According to a Bloomberg report, Moritz Leiner, of the Association of Ethical Shareholders Germany, called on Lufthansa to reconsider its climate-change policy.

Leiner pointed out that the company, for instance, operates four flights every single day from Munich to Nuremberg, two cities that are a mere two-hour drive apart.

Leiner is not alone in his growing concern about the carbon dioxide emissions tied to the aviation industry.

Just last week, Responsible Travel released a new manifesto on aviation and climate change that called the aviation industry one of the fastest growing contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Responsible Travel manifesto, if aviation was a country, it would be the 7th largest emitter of CO2 in the world, just behind Germany. In Europe, Ryanair has become one of the top 10 most carbon polluting businesses.

A 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommended that to limit global temperature rises to no more than 1.5°C, global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 must be 55 percent below 2017 levels.

With the predicted rise in global air passengers, however, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) predicts that aviation emissions are expected to grow by up to 300 percent by 2050.

According to this year’s European Aviation Environmental Report, the number of flights in and out of the European Economic Area alone increased by eight percent between 2014 and 2017, Bloomberg reported.

Between 2017 and 2040, the figure is expected to grow by an additional 40 percent, the Bloomberg article noted.

And none of these figures takes into account the record growth in aviation emissions taking place beyond the EEA. They more than doubled between 1990 and 2017, all of which makes the aviation industry look like an enormous threat to the environment.

While the European Union’s emissions registry identified budget carrier Ryanair Holdings as the ninth-biggest emitter of CO2 in the EU last year, the airline’s CEO has called climate change “complete and utter rubbish.”

The other companies making up the registry’s top 10 are all coal-fired power plants, according to Bloomberg. Ryanair alone produced about a quarter as much CO2 last year as the world’s biggest lignite-burning power station in Belchatow, Poland.

New words are already being coined to describe the shame that environmentally conscious people feel about flying, Bloomberg added.

In German and other northern European languages the word is flugscham. In Swedish, its flygskam and the Dutch version of the word is vliegschaamte, all of which translates to the same “flight shame.”

In some countries, change is beginning to occur, according to Bloomberg. In Sweden, for instance, people are adjusting their travel plans. And some predict it won’t be long before other European countries with strong environmental movements, such as Germany and the Netherlands, follow suit.

The lingering question, however, is what can governments and industry do, says Bloomberg.

Some of the options that have been floated include stricter emissions standards that would require carriers to use more expensive synthetic fuels, the elimination of short-haul flights that produce more CO2 per traveler than road transportation and don’t save a significant amount of time.

Responsible Travel has also said that bringing about significant industry change will mean that individuals need to alter their travel habits, and ultimately fly less.

The travel company also pointed to various projects that pose hope for the future including efforts to investigate the development of zero and low emission planes, including electric. These sorts of planes could offer carbon-free solutions if charged using renewable energy, says Responsible Travel.

No matter which path is chosen, the need to act is becoming even more pressing, say some on the travel industry.

“Aviation is the elephant in the room for the future of tourism and the communities in the destinations in which we operate,” said Responsible Travel’s Justin Francis. “With just 10 years left to keep global warming below 1.5 percent, we have to stop talking about doing something. We need a plan that will work, and we need it yesterday.”

Source: Read Full Article