The further you fly, the more emissions you release, especially on a transatlantic flight. This concept is tempting to believe, but it’s not always the case. Transatlantic flights are some of the longest – yet, most common – flights taken annually.
Yet, aircraft on these routes are separated by a whopping 51 percent efficiency gap.
This year, airlines are finally required to report their obligatory carbon offsets under the CORSIA program.
This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Still, passengers must take up their own carbon offsets to make a dent in the fight against climate change.
Keep reading to find out how to offset your own transatlantic flight emissions…
How Much CO2 Does a Transatlantic Flight Produce?
Flights across the pond are some of the most carbon-intensive, according to the latest studies. At the beginning of this year, scientists revealed that global attention must turn to transatlantic flight optimization if humans want to mitigate rising greenhouse gas (GHG) levels in the atmosphere.1
These flights have long been a significant contributor to the aviation industry’s carbon footprint. In fact, routes between Europe and North America, which make up a large portion of transatlantic flights, produced 56.1 million metric tons of CO2 in 2019 (61.8 million tons).2
Additionally, flights between the Middle East and North America released 9.94 million metric tons (11 million tons) of CO2, while travel between Africa and North America produced 1.98 million metric tons (2.18 million tons).2 That’s a lot of CO2!
Zooming in even further shows that twenty flights far exceed others in terms of the amount of CO2 released by the kilogram per round trip. Some of these are: 2
- Turkish Airlines, Istanbul Airport to John F. Kennedy (JFK) at 1,200 kg CO2 (2,646 lbs)
- AEORFLOT Russian Airlines, JFK to SVO at 1,100 kg CO2 (2,425 lbs)
- Delta, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to Detroit Metropolitan Airport at 1,000 kg CO2 (2,204 lbs)
- Iberia, JFK to Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport at 920 kg CO2 (2,028 lbs)
- Air Canada, London Heathrow Airport to Toronto Pearson Airport at 870 kg CO2 (1,918 lbs)
Disparities between flights are so immense that the gap between the highest- and lowest-efficiency airlines differ by 51 percent. 3
The North Atlantic is reportedly often bogged down by a “large volume of air traffic” with no radar to cover the mid-ocean.
Despite all this, the aviation industry’s GHGs are expected to triple by 2050 without policy interventions. 3 As industry leaders work on finding a way out of this, you can get a jumpstart on offsetting this facet of your carbon footprint.
Offsetting Flights Across the Pond
Carbon offsets are the best available tools for neutralizing your environmental impact after a flight, especially since the average person can’t do much to change an airline’s flight practices or fuel efficiency.
At the same time, research has proven that these industries’ impacts can be measured on a per-passenger level, with 85 percent of the entire industry’s emissions coming from passenger transport. Even your seating during the flight matters. Premium-class flyers were shown to emit 2.6-4.3 times more CO2 than people in the economy class.4
To ensure a healthy planet, you must take the initiative and work to reduce your share of air travel’s global consequences. One way to do that is by ensuring the airline(s) you travel with hold themselves accountable for their carbon dioxide-intensive practices with verified carbon offsets.
The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, helps ensure that airlines are on track to meet the goals set forth by the Paris climate agreement. The measure was initially implemented in 2016 when international governments agreed to “stabilize net CO2 emissions from international aviation from 2021.”5
CORSIA applied to global aviation activity beginning 1 January 2019. Exactly two years later, airlines became subject to offsetting mandates in addition to other efforts to increase the industry’s efficiency, including improvements on fuel quality and use patterns.5
Fortunately, several nations worldwide are participating in CORSIA, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada (some of the biggest carbon emitters in the world). In total, the plan is expected to prevent nearly 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 from being released throughout the first 15 years. 6
Still, this isn’t enough, given how rapidly the aviation industry’s emissions are rising. So, it’s time for passengers to take charge and offset their individual emissions contributions.
How to Offset Your Transatlantic Flight
Small lifestyle changes can also support your progress toward carbon neutrality… but not in the way that many think.
You may have heard this fun fact before: Four pounds of beef emits just as many GHGs as a flight from New York to London. Though many people bought into this idea when it was published in the New Yorker in 2019, experts say that this is flat-out false.7
Frank Mitloehner, Director of the CLEAR Center, and Darren Hudson, Director of the International Center for Agricultural Competitiveness, wrote, “Four pounds of beef in the United States DOES NOT equate to the greenhouse gas emissions (per passenger) of a flight from New York to London.”7
They point out that US beef releases 22 kg of CO2 per kilogram, meaning four pounds would yield 40 kg CO2, or 88 pounds of CO2. This is far, far below the per-passenger level of 1,980 lbs of CO2 emissions released by a flight from New York to London. With all this said: No, you won’t be able to offset your flights by giving up a few burgers now and then.7
However, there are better options, such as supporting afforestation programs from respected carbon offset companies. Afforestation projects are among the best opportunities available for slowing or stopping the most severe climate change consequences.
Studies have shown that “forest growth rate is the most important determinant of cumulative mitigation by 2120” whether humans continue to harvest trees or not. Depending on the species, this strategy could mitigate 0.54-1.72 Pg CO2-eq for planting-only conservation forests in the UK alone.8
Additionally, offsetting with afforestation gives you the chance to restore wildlife habitat, giving animals impacted by human activity security and vital resources once again.
Neutralizing your transatlantic flights with carbon offsets can improve the quality of your and many other organisms’ lives. Calculate your footprint now to reduce the environmental damage from your flight.
Neutralize Your International Flights
Whether you’re traveling for leisure or business, your transatlantic flight contributes to increasing environmental burdens. Although 2021 marks the beginning of obligatory carbon offsetting reports from CORSIA participants, you don’t have to let the airlines have all the fun.
Take control of your carbon footprint by calculating your flight’s carbon emissions. Once you know exactly how many greenhouse gases you released, you can neutralize your impact by supporting afforestation or green construction projects for a cleaner, more sustainable future by getting a flying international carbon offset.
Read More About Flight Emissions:
American Airlines Carbon Offsets but Delays Commitment to Carbon Neutrality
Calculate Your Flight’s Carbon Emissions and Go Green in Seconds
Carbon Offsets for Private Jets: Fly Climate Neutral with Verified Carbon Offsets
Delta Airlines Carbon Offsets Now Letting Passengers Fly Green
Emirates Flights: Carbon Neutral Air Travel Now Possible with Carbon Offsets
Helicopter Carbon Offsets: Neutralize Flight Emissions and Fly Green
How Does Ryanair Use Your Carbon Offset Donation?
Leaveless: Reviewing Air Canada’s Carbon Offset Program
United Airlines Carbon Offsets: Reviewing Eco-Skies Program with Conservation International
Warning: British Airways Only Climate Neutral for Domestic UK Flights
The Average Carbon Footprint Per Person Is Rising Fast: Is It Too Late? (10 Ways to Help Now)
Carbon Offsets Don’t Work? Learn About Verified Climate Solutions (and More Explained)
Can Planting Trees Be Bad For The Environment? New Stanford Study Explains
Forestry Carbon Offsetting: Tree Planting to Offset Emissions for Companies Going Carbon Neutral
1Wells, C. A., Williams, P. D., Nichols, N. K., Kalise, D., & Poll, I. (2021). Reducing transatlantic flight emissions by fuel-optimised routing. Environmental Research Letters, 16(2), 025002. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/abce82
2Mazareanu, E. (2020, November 16). CO2 emissions of prominent passenger flight routes. Statista. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/510547/prominent-transatlantic-flights-carbon-dioxide-emissions-round-trip/
3The International Council on Clean Transportation. (2015). Transatlantic airline fuel efficiency ranking, 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://theicct.org/sites/default/files/ICCT_2014_TA-airline-ranking_factsheet_0.pdf
4Graver, B., Rutherford, D., & Zheng, S. (2020, October 8). CO2 emissions from commercial aviation: 2013, 2018, and 2019. International Council on Clean Transportation. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://theicct.org/publications/co2-emissions-commercial-aviation-2020
5International Air Transport Association. (2021). Offsetting CO2 emissions with CORSIA. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://www.iata.org/en/programs/environment/corsia/
6Verifavia. (n.d.). Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) verification aviation, airports, shipping Verifavia. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://www.verifavia.com/greenhouse-gas-verification/fq-which-states-are-participating-in-corsia-250.php
7Mitloehner, F., & Hudson, D. (2019, September 26). No, four pounds of beef doesn’t equal the emissions of a transatlantic flight – GHGGuru blog. GHGGuru Blog | UC Davis. Retrieved August 24, 2021, from https://ghgguru.faculty.ucdavis.edu/2019/09/26/no-four-pounds-of-beef-doesnt-equal-the-emissions-of-a-transatlantic-flight/
8Forster, E. J., Healey, J. R., Dymond, C., & Styles, D. (2021). Commercial afforestation can deliver effective climate change mitigation under multiple decarbonisation pathways. Nature Communications, 12(1). Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-24084-x