Many of us have been impacted by the widespread effect of climate change like droughts, wildfires, and the loss of natural habitats. These environmental impacts can be minimized with efforts to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, one of the leading causes of climate change.
Given the fact that planes contribute to CO2 emissions, we decided it’s time to evaluate air travel and consider some important facts:
- Global emissions from planes could increase from around 2% to 20% in 2050 without decarbonization efforts.
- Flights make up about 90% of business travel emissions.
Our belief is air travel powers economic growth and strengthens business partnerships, so it’s important to continue its momentum and lessen its contribution to CO2 emissions. That’s why we’ve identified ways to help you fly more sustainably today, possible energy resources for tomorrow, and what we see as a viable long-term solution for air travel.
What you can do today
Fly modern, efficient aircraft
In general, newer, more fuel-efficient airplanes pollute less than older ones. According to Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders, aviation is one of the most technologically advanced sectors in the world. In fact, ever since the early days of the Wright brothers, cutting-edge aerodynamics have taken flight on an ongoing basis. As a result, each new generation of airplanes is up to 20% more fuel-efficient than the previous one. Modern airplanes produce 80% less CO2 than jets in the 1950s. The Boeing 787 and 777X, Airbus A380, A220, and A350XWB aircraft are some examples of models today that use lighter-weight materials for better environmental performance.
Take direct flights off-peak
Try to stay away from connecting flights and layovers if at all possible. Book direct, nonstop flights, which can help you avoid high emissions during takeoff and landing. This is more feasible during off-peak times and weekdays when skies are less crowded.
Heavy loads have a greater stake in the plane’s freight load. When you add more weight to a plane, it needs to fly at a higher angle to produce more lift, which means more thrust. As you increase thrust, you also increase fuel consumption.
Sort flights by emissions when booking
Look into the carbon emissions when you book a flight so you can gauge your carbon footprint. This may seem like an added step considering all the to-dos in planning and booking trips but you can streamline the search through a resourceful booking platform. For example, when our clients book through our NeoTM booking tool, they can filter results by carbon emissions and see the CO2 emissions on flights to make sustainable choices. For those clients that use the Egencia platform, they can access a carbon tracker when booking flights and at checkout.
Schedule multiple meetings in one location
Whether you’re scheduling meetings with clients, organizing an off-site event for colleagues, or tagging on vacation days to a business trip, make the most of a single location. Having a lengthy, multipurpose stay at a single destination can be more carbon-efficient than spacing out meetings at several places.
Compensate for carbon emissions
It’s always best to reduce emissions when you can, but there are options available when reducing emissions is not doable. Compensation for carbon emissions works by supporting carbon offset projects like wind farm construction and reforestation. It’s possible to source these projects yourself although there’s an easier way to go about it. Choose a travel management company that does that work for you. For example, we provide our clients with a choice of nature-based projects from our preferred partners. Projects offered have been independently validated according to rigorous and internationally recognized accreditation standards.
What you can expect tomorrow
Flying-V, a hydrogen-powered aircraft, went for a test drive in July 2020, crossing the border from the Netherlands to Lower Saxony, Germany. The flight demonstrated the potential of hydrogen aircraft and gave engineers reasons to explore more effective materials, techniques, and fuel tanks. From our point of view, many elements ranging from processes to costs need to be worked out to overcome production challenges. Some project it will be the 2030s when commercial hydrogen-powered airplanes will get off the ground.
In 2016, a solar-powered electric plane completed a 26,000-mile journey. Since then, several companies, including NASA, have focused on all-electric airplanes to lessen our dependence on jet engines. Battery technology would need to improve significantly before long-haul, electric flights become feasible. Industry insiders speculate that smaller or hybrid regional planes may be available in the 2030s.
As electric and hydrogen-powered airplanes show signs of hope, it’s equally important to recognize that:
- 80% of CO2 emissions today come from medium- to long-haul flights.
- While smaller electric vehicles like cars are gaining ground, larger electric vehicles such as planes face technical challenges.
Based on these findings, we predict that liquid fuels for airplanes will play a major role for decades to come.
Closing the gap
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) that can be produced today is one of the more promising solutions for cleaner, greener air travel with the potential of reducing emissions by up to 80% during its full lifecycle. According to the International Air Transport Association, it can help us meet challenging emission-reduction goals.
SAF is made from renewable sources ranging from cooking oil and plant oils to municipal waste and there’s the possibility for creating a synthetic liquid fuel in the future. So why aren’t there more flights using SAF? Costs. According to a recent CNN article, SAF made from waste oils costs at least 50% more than regular jet fuel. For costs to go down, production needs to go up. We’re committed to helping make that happen. Click here to learn more about this ambitious effort to change green flights from a vision to a reality.