Airline travellers can now pay more to offset emissions

Airline travellers can now pay more to offset emissions

SINGAPORE: There are growing calls for the industry to do more to address climate change even as airlines recover from three years of border closures and pandemic restrictions.

Airlines are responsible for nearly 3 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, and more are offering eco-conscious travellers an option to reduce the impact of their flight by buying carbon offsets.

Does paying extra for your airfare have any impact on the planet?

Offsetting aims to mitigate the climate damage caused by carbon emissions by paying to prevent or reduce such emissions elsewhere.

This involves buying carbon credits with a permit or certificate that represents a reduction of one tonne of carbon dioxide emission generated from verified environmental projects.

When a carbon credit is used to compensate for emissions produced elsewhere, it is retired or taken out of circulation and becomes a carbon offset.

Singapore Airlines SIA is one of the carriers that give travellers the option to pay additional fees for carbon offsets. Passengers can calculate their share of carbon emissions on the airline's website and pay for offsets using cash or frequent flyer miles.

For example, a passenger on a return economy class flight from Singapore to London can pay S $21.86 to offset 1,682 on a return economy class flight. 3 kg of carbon dioxide emissions are generated.

100 per cent of the funds will go towards preserving rainforests in Indonesia, solar energy projects in India and distributing clean-burning cooking stoves in rural parts of Nepal.

Other major airlines with similar carbon offset programs include Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa and All Nippon Airways.

More than 50 airlines, including half of the world's 20 largest carriers, are currently doing so, according to figures from Geneva-based industry association Air Transport Action Group.

With these carbon offset schemes being voluntary, the take-up rate has been low, experts said.

Air Transport Action Group executive director Haldane Dodd said that uptake varies according to airlines, but typically it is very low, under 5 per cent of passengers choosing to offset their emissions through the airlines.

CNA spoke to other experts who were not surprised by this, noting that most consumers would perceive this to be an additional cost eating into their travel budgets.

They said that the rise in airfares and inflation fears has made travellers more cost conscious, even as the pandemic has raised awareness about green consumption.