Which Airlines Are the Best and Worst for Climate Change?
As of 2018, the commercial aviation industry accounted for 2.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. If it were its own country, it would be the 7th highest emitter on the planet.
Because of this, some climate activists have begun calling on people to reduce the amount of time they spend in the air, or to stop flying all together. Two Swedish moms, for example, got at least 10,000 people to pledge not to fly at all in 2019 as part of their No-fly 2019 (Flygfritt 2019) campaign, as BBC News reported.
But if you do need to fly, it turns out not all airlines are carbon-equal. A report released Tuesday from the London School of Economics' (LSE) Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) compared what the 20 top publicly-traded airline companies are doing to combat climate change, and found that only one — the budget airline EasyJet — was on track to keep its carbon dioxide emissions low enough after 2020 to meet the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming to below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Next week @tp_initiative will release latest research on world's top publicly-listed #airlines companies. Find out… https://t.co/9Zv8ysYSUA— Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) (@Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI))1551372867.0
In general, the study found that the entire industry had to do better. No company had a clear plan to reduce emissions past 2025. Further, many companies that had adopted emissions reduction targets relied on carbon offsetting. But the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that limiting warming to below two degrees is only possible if airlines actually reduce their own emissions.
However, some airlines are doing more than others. The study rated airlines on both the quality of their overall climate change management plans and their emissions per passenger kilometer (the number of passengers multiplied by the distance flown).
In terms of Management Quality, Delta, United, Lufthansa and Japan-based ANA Group scored the highest, while Air China; China Southern; Korean Air; Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines scored lowest. One airline, Wizz Air, scored even lower, but it has disclosed more data to LSE since the study was undertaken.
In terms of projected emissions (in grams of carbon dioxide per passenger kilometer) by 2020, the airlines rank as follows, from most to least efficient.
- EasyJet: 75
- Alaska Air: 87
- Qantas: 89
- United: 92
- Southwest and Jetblue: 98
- LATAM: 102
- Delta: 104
- Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines: 107
- Air China: 108
- IAG: 112
- Japan Airlines: 125
- ANA Group: 133
- Korean Air: 172
There was no 2020 data for American Airlines, China Southern or Singapore Airlines, and no data at all for Wizz Air and IndiGo.
BBC News issued a caveat about EasyJet's high performance, however:
There is also some cause for caution over EasyJet's carbon virtue. Remember that the figures are based on CO2 per passenger kilometre.
This means EasyJet can improve its per capita performance by stuffing planes with cut-price ticket-holders, thereby potentially encouraging a new generation of frequent flyers.
Indeed, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects the number of airline passengers to double to 8.2 billion by 2037, which could make the sector's emissions worse, CNN reported.
The study itself is proof of growing pressure on the airline industry to reduce emissions, however. It was funded by the Environment Agency Pension Fund, which represents institutional investors who want their money to go to companies that are making an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.
"Investors have a clear message to the aviation sector," co-chair of the Transition Pathway Initiative on behalf of the Environment Agency Pension Fund Faith Ward said in the study press release. "When it comes to carbon performance they must be in it for the long haul. That means setting stretching emissions reduction targets to 2030 and beyond, and ending a reliance on offsetting. It's clear from TPI's research that this is not currently the case."
EasyJet Plans to Fly Electric Planes Within 10 Years https://t.co/QNkq1E2zXl @greenpeaceusa @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1506650103.0
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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