Britons named world’s biggest emitters of CO2 from air travel
Britons produce more carbon emissions from air travel a head than any other country,
a study reveals today, citing the country’s predilection for low-cost airlines
as a major factor.
The average carbon emission for each British flyer was 603kg (1329lb) a year, more than a third higher than Ireland in second place with 434kg and more than double that of the US at 275kg, in third place.
Wetter summers and easier access to air travel were also blamed for the increasing
greenhouse gas emissions by British air travellers, according to the report by
Global TGI, (TGI) a market research company, which studied 20 countries with high rates of air
Geoff Wicken, a spokesman for Global TGI, said: “There are clearly a number of
reasons for it, some of which include the British weather and people wanting to
get away from that, some of which are to do with our being an island. But the
rapid growth in low-cost flying has undoubtedly been a factor.”
The figures will put the government under renewed pressure to clamp down on air
travel to meet its targets to reduce emissions. Although the government has pledged
to cut carbon emissions as part of its fight against global warming, it has supported
Delivering his budget report yesterday, Alistair Darling announced measures to
tackle climate change, including switching air taxes from individual passengers
to airline flights to encourage more efficient use of planes. He also said that
air travel, which contributes 6.3% of the UK’s carbon emissions, should be part
of the EU’s emissions trading scheme.
Several studies have shown that the aviation industry is rapidly becoming a major
contributor to global warming. Over the past 30 years air passengers in Britain
have increased fivefold.
The government’s own figures support the notion that air travel is more harmful
to the environment.
Defra calculated that rail journeys produce 0.04kg of carbon dioxide for each
For longhaul flights it is 0.11kg,
while short-haul flights produce 0.15kg.
That would make a flight from London to Paris about four times as polluting as
a train journey. Cheap shorthaul flights offered by airlines are now in direct
competition with trains to European destinations such as Paris and also big cities
in the Britain such as Manchester and Edinburgh.
Scientists say carbon emissions in the atmosphere are at least twice as harmful
to the environment as those at sea level.
But overall, US adults have the biggest annual travel carbon footprint in the
world at 7.8 tonnes, more than double France’s 3.7 tonnes, which comes in at number
two. Third on the list, at 3.1 tonnes, is Britain.
The study calculated air emissions by adding up the number of long and short
haul flights taken. It arrived at road emissions figures by determining the amount
of fuel consumed.
· This article was amended on Thursday October 11 2007. We said that the average
carbon emission for each British flyer is 603kg and converted this to 95lb.
In fact 603kg is 1329lb. This has been corrected.
Guardian “How long can you go?” 27.6.2007
Comparing the direct emissions of air and rail journeys is complicated by the
mixture of power sources used by trains (in the UK, some 40% of the network is
electrified) and the different occupancy rates at different times of the day.
(There is also the matter of the increased damage caused by carbon emissions at
altitude, which the government puts at 2.6 times worse.)
After muddling through these issues, the government’s environment department,
Defra, calculated that rail journeys produce 0.04kg of carbon dioxide per passenger
kilometre. For long-haul flights it is 0.11kg, while short-haul flights produce
0.15kg. That would make a flight from London to Paris about four times as polluting
as a train journey.
Eurostar has not revealed its workings, but it has probably invoked the heavy
nuclear presence in France’s electricity mix to reach its 10-times figure, which
raises a different set of environmental questions.