IconNovember 22nd, 2019
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Carbon offsets: Solution to the airlines’ emissions problem? 

Currently, it was reiterated that global carbon commissions coming from the aviation industry are mounting faster than expected and this scenario poses a serious risk to the world’s climate efforts if left as it is or unchecked. The rise of the so-called flygskam or flight shame urged various airline and travel companies to offer customers the option of offsetting the carbon emissions of their flights. However, not everyone is convinced that such an initiative can be an alternative solution to the timely problem nor can it be absolved through projects based on simple carbon accounting.

To give you brief information about carbon offsetting, it involves the calculation of the emissions of a particular trip or activity and then purchasing credits from some projects that have a goal of preventing or removing an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases elsewhere. Some of the accredited carbon offsetting organizations involve the planting of trees that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As per the recently concluded findings through intensive research, such activity can play a major role in discussing the climate crisis. Other possible schemes involve investing in renewable energy projects. It saves carbon emissions by replacing fossil fuel alternatives. Nowadays, there’s a growing awareness regarding the climate crisis as well as the Greta Thunberg effect. It paved the way to push through with the carbon offset schemes. The data gathered concluded that the amount of investment from passengers who wish to cancel their carbon footprints has reached fourfold in recent years. This finding was released by the offsetting watchdog Gold Standard.

Recently, EasyJet’s pledge to fly carbon neutral which then followed by the string of other airlines. The carriers also do hope to encourage passengers to keep flying despite raising such climate concerns. An announcement was also released that the world-renowned manufacturer, Airbus, will continue to support the American startup Wright Electric. This company has a goal of producing an all-electric aircraft.

Aside from EasyJet, there are at least 10 other airline companies that offer carbon offsetting to their passengers namely Air New Zealand, Air Canada, The Emirates, Qantas, Virgin Australia, Delta Airlines, Jetstar, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Gulf Air.

This year, British Airways released a statement that it plans to start offsetting the carbon from all its domestic flights from the beginning of 2020. It will offer its passengers a carbon calculator and a range of accredited offset schemes to invest in depending on their preference. The said schemes include fitting low-smoke stoves in Sudan and reforestation in the Amazon. The above plan would cost around £25m if successfully incorporated on the stipulated date.

Just like the Royal Dutch Shell in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, it offers drivers which fill up at its petrol stations the opportunity to drive carbon neutral at no extra cost by using carbon credits from the conservation projects located in the US, Britain, Peru, and Indonesia.

The majority of the airlines are embracing carbon offsetting. This is their way to address aviation’s expanding carbon footprint while continuing to increase the number of flights being offered yearly. It’s no longer a surprise that the aviation industry plays a growing role in the climate crisis since it releases hundreds of millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year. In figures, the carbon emissions from commercial flights globally have increased by almost 70% faster than predicted by the International Council on Clean Transportation. One of its basis is the growing demand for air travel in developed countries.

Unfortunately, not all airlines have taken up the carbon credits like for example, the world’s biggest airline – American Airlines, it does not offer the said offset scheme. Instead, it has taken further meaningful steps to reduce its fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in terms of buying new, more fuel-efficient planes.

As per the environmental groups, the best and clear way to reduce emissions from the aviation industry is by taking fewer flights. The majority of them have a fear that carbon offsetting can do more harm than what is expected since it’s giving the airlines a license to keep polluting and encouraging travelers to fly, thus choosing the most polluting option.

Another concern among the environmentalists is that the confusing state of carbon calculation may imply that some projects fall short in terms of neutralizing the damage caused by air travel. The Greenpeace UK described the EasyJet’s carbon offset method as a jumbo-sized greenwash. The organization also stated that expert analysis has cast serious doubts about whether the offsetting schemes can work at all and be a meaningful option. In line with the issues, it would be better if the policymakers allot space in a frequent flier levy to curb the number of flights possible as well as their climate-wrecking emissions. Also, as per the Brussels-based T&E research group statement, stronger action and platform coming from the government is necessary to tax the climate impact of flying and the effort to develop clean fuels to reinforce the problem regarding the aviation’s rising carbon emissions. It was stressed out that almost 20 EU states don’t tax international aviation at all. Besides, no member state taxes jet fuel.

Certain groups are urging passengers to view their carbon offsets as the last resort. This is also a good idea to donate and support various green projects but not as the solution to the emerging climate crisis.

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