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Carbon Offsetting - Responsible Flying
The role of greenhouse gas emissions in global climate change is now accepted almost universally amongst the world's scientific community. Almost every day we hear new concerns about the role that flying plays in these emissions. Fuel combustion in aircraft engines releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As travellers we can not escape this basic fact. Although there are continual technological improvements being made to jet engines there is no emission free engine about to be introduced.
How then can we be responsible travellers when we have to fly to reach our holiday destinations?
Firstly it is important to put the issue into context. In his 2006 review of climate change Sir Nicholas Stern advised the UK government that aviation was responsible for just 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. On a worldwide basis deforestation is a far greater source of carbon dioxide emissions as the gases trapped within the biomass are released as trees are felled. The trees are also unavailable for uptake of carbon dioxide further increasing the problem. It may surprise you to realise that Brazil and Indonesia are the world's 3rd and 4th greatest greenhouse gas emitters after the industrial economies of China and USA.
Why then are we so concerned with flying?
It would be naive of the tourism industry to think that flying is not contributing to global climate change. Aircraft emissions are not yet significant on a global basis but the contribution from flying is growing as the airline industry grows around the world. In the UK emissions from flying are predicted to become more significant over coming decades as flights become ever cheaper and more short-haul destinations open up. Remember also that flying emits some carbon dioxide at high altitudes in the atmosphere where it may do more harm. It is true however that aircraft engines work hardest and therefore emit more close to ground during landing and take-off.
|CO2 Emissions / 1000 km flight|
|First Class||770 kg per passenger|
|Business Class||510 kg per passenger|
|Economy||220 kg per passenger|
The benefits of flying
If we did not fly it would be impossible to visit long haul destinations such as the various African countries we promote. African travel is not just a holiday it is a life experience. As well as our personal benefits as tourists, think of the vast benefits to the economies of the countries we visit. International tourism is the prime economic activity for 30% of the world's developing countries. Each year UK tourists spent approx GB£3 billion a year on holidays in developing countries. Almost as much as the UK governments entire annual development aid budget. This dilemma was first highlighted by Justin Francis of ResponsibleTravel.com in the New Consumer magazine in 2006.
How can we minimise our impact as travellers?
We can not avoid greenhouse gas emissions when we fly, but we could all reduce them in other areas of our daily lives. Switching to low energy light bulbs, washing clothes at low temperatures, conserving energy use in the home and driving a low emission car or using public transport more will all dramatically reduce you personal carbon footprint.
|Some Interesting Carbon Facts|
|1.5 billion cattle produce 18% of Greenhouse gasses|
|Heathrow generates 13.9 million tonnes of CO2 per year
57.2 million Americans consuming the nation's average of 50 burger per year
Don't just take our word for it - you can do the calculations yourselves on the many Carbon Footprint Calculators available. The UK Government's Personal Carbon Footprint calculator is just one example.
But if you travel by air regularly you will see from the calculator that your flights will still be the largest component of your personal carbon footprint - what can be done about this? Today there are over 40 carbon offsetting companies offering travellers the opportunity to make a payment contribution towards reducing the environmental impact of their flights. Some are entirely charitable and some are private businesses. Some just plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide and some fund more innovative low carbon research.
We recognise that this is a personal choice for each traveller. Our policy is NOT to impose a requirement on our customers to offset their flights in any prescribed way - offsetting choice is yours to make. If you would like to offset your travels, please click on the logo for the Food & Trees for Africa CO2 calculator.
As a final thought you may wish to avoid the uncertain world of offsetting completely and still travel ethically. For example simply use the CO2 calculator on any carbon offsetting site to calculate the value of your emissions and then donate this amount to a charity or organisation working to reduce climate change - such as the many forest conservation organisations campaigning for sustainable forestry in Brazil and Indonesia. We particularly recommend Cool Earth. This is a charity whose aims are to secure ownership of large plots of tropical rainforest and manage it in a sustainable manner in trust with local people.