International flights have been a concern with climate activists for decades, as governments look to reach net zero emissions in order to prevent catastrophic global warming. In fact, in 2019, it was revealed that global CO2 emissions from commercial airlines were rising up to 70% faster than predicted, and carbon dioxide emitted by airlines increased by 32% from 2013 to 2018 alone - an amount equivalent to building 50 coal-fired power plants.
The Environmental Protection Agency concluded that CO2 from aviation contributes to pollution that endangers public health, welfare and ecosystems. And with flight emissions growing faster than any other mode of transport, it’s vital that individuals make an effort to lower their carbon footprint by avoiding inessential international trips wherever possible.
According to global recommendations, the maximum amount of carbon that can be generated per person to avoid global warming is 0.6 tonnes. However, the average person currently generates 8.4 tonnes - exceeding the target level 14 times. - despite a drop in emissions due to Covid-19 induced travel bans. This cannot continue.
This has clear implications for business owners, as around 1.1 million people travel for business per day from the US alone, with more than 405 million long-distance business trips made each year. A rise in travel and tourism has intensified business travel demand, while the globalisation of organisations and continued SME growth has led to a boom in emissions caused by international flights, transportation and accommodation required by workers.
Ketti Whilhelm, Founder of TiltedMap, urges business owners to avoid unnecessary trips and blames social media for promoting excess, saying: “All the uncertainty brought by Covid-19 makes this travel season a perfect time to try staying closer to home. Coronavirus will remind people to travel more thoughtfully - this means commuting and excess business trips, but also that nagging obligation of the Instagram era to always be going further away, to more exotic destinations – even if only for a short trip.”
Alex Miller, Founder of UpgradedPoints, offers some practical advice for business owners to lower their carbon footprint if they must journey abroad. He recommends that workers:
- Consider more public transit use in place of taxis or private hire
- Offset travels with a carbon emissions “purchase", such as charity donations
- Fly less wherever possible, even if it means a longer layover time
- Stay in hotel chains that actively work to reduce carbon emissions
- Fly on airlines that prioritize offsetting their carbon footprint
- As well as limiting international travel at a business level, climate change championing must be mirrored in politics in order to be effective.
Dr Andrew Welfle from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester, says: “Politicians and policy makers are overwhelmingly interested in increasing the economic performances of their constituencies, providing jobs, boosting local economies and with it well-being and satisfaction. Although the Covid-19 crisis has been devastating for many sectors, it also provides opportunities for both the government, prolific businesses and the public to pause and rethink – a period of reflection that could be highly valuable in our battle to reduce emissions.”
This commentary comes as a new political pollution study reveals that EU and US leaders are still set to exceed climate change recommendations by a staggering 230 tonnes of CO2, despite a drop in emissions resulting from Covid-19 travel bans.