Carbon Offsetting; How Travelling By Plane Contributes To Climate Change

What is a “carbon offset”?

Public awareness of climate change is rising year after year.

Most industries are looking for ways to minimize their impacts and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Transportation accounts for 16.2% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Aviation itself is responsible for 1.9% of CO2 global emissions. Two-thirds of warming (66%) comes from non-CO2 forcings. Contrails, the water vapour trails from aircraft exhausts, account for the largest share of the problem.

To address this issue, airline companies are offering their customers to “compensate” the CO2 emissions released during their flights by “carbon offset” activities.

But, what is a carbon offset?

How does it work?

Does it really “compensate” our CO2 emissions?

In this article, I will answer these questions for the next time you decide to purchase (or not) the “carbon offset” option from your airline company.

Why do we need to “offset” carbon?

The travel and tourism industry is expected to grow substantially in the following decades.

Fuel demand from aviation is estimated to increase up to 2.6% per year until 2025.

This will increase their share of global CO2 emissions unless they take critical mitigation actions.

In 2016, The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed on the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

CORSIA’s primary goal is to complement measures of aviation fuel efficiency with carbon offsets purchasing to achieve their CO2 reduction goals.

What does “carbon offsetting” mean?

Carbon offsets are a tool to compensate for GHG emissions. This is achieved by investing money in a project that absorbs or avoids GHG emissions that would have been released otherwise.

Customers are offered to “compensate” their flight emissions by paying an extra fee with each plane ticket purchase. This money will fund different projects that capture or prevent CO2 emissions from being released into the atmosphere.