ICAO launches phone app to calculate CO2 footprint of flights – but excludes radiative forcing effects

ICAO have launched an iPhone and iPad app so fliers can calculate the amount of carbon their flights have generated. Which is great and very commendable. ICAO says the calculator has been available on the internet since it was first launched in 2008 and is used worldwide by the general public and all UN agencies etc.  BUT, the snag is that the figures they give are very low, for the amount of carbon produced, and  completely exclude non-CO2 “radiative forcing” effects.  For example, for an economy class return flight for one person from Heathrow to New York, the ICAO calculator gives a figure of 770 kg of CO2, while most others give much higher figures, such as 1.84 or 1.87 tonnes including radiative forcing.


ICAO launches iPhone and iPad app to help air travellers calculate the carbon footprint of their flights

Thu 14 June 2012  (GreenAir online)

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has launched a free iPhone and iPad app of its Carbon Emissions Calculator, which computes emissions on point-to-point routes for use in carbon-offsetting programmes. The easy-to-use app, the first app from ICAO, is available through iTunes or the App Store (search for Carbon Emissions Calculator under Travel) and an Android version will be available shortly. The calculator has been available on the internet since it was first launched in 2008 and is used worldwide by the general public and all UN agencies to compute their carbon footprint, whether from personal or work-related air travel.

The methodology used takes into account a range of variables such as aircraft type, route specific data, passenger load factors and cargo carried.

“The new ICAO app is the perfect tool to allow all of us to become more aware of our environmental footprint and how we can individually and collectively make a difference,” said Raymond Benjamin, Secretary General of ICAO.

ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator




How does the ICAO calculator – leaving out “radiative forcing” or non-CO2 effects of aviation – compare with others?

Taking for comparison a return trip, economy class, from Heathrow to New York JFK.

1.  Using the ICAO calculator:

1 passenger,  round trip from Heathrow to New York generates about 770.07 Kg of CO2   (5,538 Km ).  No price is given.

This itinerary is served by the following aircraft:  340,343,346,744,764,777
Each flight consumes an average of 47,915 Kg of fuel
The average number of seats per flight is 407
The average CO2 emitted per passenger is 385.04 Kg



2.  Using the Carbon Neutral Company calculator:

By comparison, the Carbon Neutral company at  calculate the return trip in economy class from Heathrow to New York JFK emits 1.16 tonnes of CO2 (and they would charge £11.60 for this offset).


3.  Carbon Planet calculator:

Carbon Planet calculates this same trip at 1 tonne of CO2 and this costs Australian $ 23 (which is £14.7).


4.  Climate Care calculator:

Climate Care says this is 1.5 tonnes of CO2 and this would cost £11.50 http://www.climatecare.org/home.aspx

5.  Flight carbon footprint calculator:

Flight carbon footprint calculator calculates this trip as 0.98 tonnes of CO2 without radiative forcing, and 1.87 tonnes CO2 including radiative forcing. With various options to pay from $22 to $38 for different projects.



6.  Carbon Advice Group calculator:

Carbon Advice Group calculate this flight as 1.84 tonnes of CO2. http://www.carbonadvicegroup.com/us/flight_calculator.php




Asked why ICAO does not include radiative forcing effects of aviation in its calculator, ICAO replied:

The ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator is limited to the calculation of the CO2 amounts released into the atmosphere by the aircraft engines during a flight. Consequently, the ICAO Emissions Calculator does not quantify the climate change impact of aircraft emissions using the Radiative Forcing Index (RFI) or other such multipliers. The scientific community has not yet reached consensus on the use of the RFI or other such multipliers and therefore ICAO will only adopt a multiplier if and when the scientific community reaches a general agreement on this issue. ICAO is working in collaboration with IPCC on this subject and will adapt a multiplier methodology in due course accordingly.