Alitalia A320 landing. @ Marco Macca / Travel Radar
Alitalia A320 landing. @ Marco Macca / Travel Radar

The environment has always been a subject of hot political debate, discussion and negotiation. At COP26, which began on 31st October and ended on the 12 November last year, there were over a week of discussions on tackling climate change. The US and China pledged to make improvements, however. No concrete actions were taken. It is a problematic issue, and making environmental commitments costs money.

Problems Caused by the Aviation Industry to the Environment

At COP26, a possibility was discussed to create a trillion-dollar fund for developing countries to cope with climate change and transition to clean energy sources. This was discussed even though a previous pledge to give 100 billion dollars a year to developing countries by 2020 had already been missed. As one can see, the cost of tackling the environmental challenges is high and difficult to commit to.

British Airways Codeshare Kenya Airways Africa
Jet Fuel is carbon-rich, leading to more carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere | © Andrea Ongaro / Travel Radar

The aviation industry is not immune to scrutiny from its effect on the environment. There is strong evidence linking carbon dioxide emissions to climate change. According to the UK Civil Aviation Authority, aircraft burn carbon-rich fuel in their engines, leading to more carbon dioxide being released as fuel is used. Out of the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide has a long life cycle and plays a crucial role in climate change. So how can the aviation industry tackle this?

Possible Solutions

Certain measures are already being taken by airlines to tackle carbon dioxide emissions. Companies such as Google Flights publish carbon dioxide emissions next to their flights. This makes it possible for customers to choose the most environmentally-friendly options to fly. This means that customer awareness is raised, and therefore, there will be more pressure on airlines to reduce emissions.

According to the UK Civil Aviation Authority, it is not mandatory for all airlines and airports to publish data on carbon dioxide emissions. However, those operating in the European Economic Area (EEA) are required to submit data under the EU Emissions Trading System. The European Commission publishes annual emissions lists for flight operators participating in the scheme. However, the good news is that a growing number of airports and airlines are choosing to voluntarily practice such an activity, giving more information to the environmentally conscious traveller, therefore further incentivising airlines to do more.

Alitalia A319 moments before landing. @ Andrea Ongaro / Travel Radar

Airlines in the EEA are required to submit data in carbon dioxide emissions | © Andrea Ongaro / Travel Radar

In addition, airlines are coming up with ways of using more environmentally friendly fuels. Turkish Airlines uses Sustainable Aviation Fuel, which produces an 80% reduction in harmful particles such as heavy metals, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulphur oxides. In addition, manufacturers are coming up with ways of producing more fuel-efficient planes. Boeing, for example, has come up with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Although this plane is having manufacturing issues, it still demonstrates the aviation industry’s effort to reduce environmental damage. The advantage of improving fuel efficiency also means that airlines save money on operating flights. So there are win-win situations where the aviation industry can benefit financially, but environmental damage is also reduced.

As one can see, there is a lot of pressure for all industries to improve the environment to tackle climate change. The aviation industry appears to be taking strides to improve its carbon footprint. Sometimes, however, that comes at a cost, as with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. However, the advantage here is that if the aviation industry gets it right, it will benefit from reduced costs and improve the environment.


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