Almost all of us contribute to global warming, and we therefore share a collective responsibility. Transport is a prime example, representing 23% of global CO2 emissions. Road and air transport represent, in essence, the movement of people: us.
Air travel is a case in point. On a single transatlantic flight, each passenger’s carbon footprint is the equivalent of a year of travel by car. Aircraft emissions account for 3% of global greenhouse gases, more than the output of many entire countries including France. The true environmental impact of aviation is even greater, since greenhouse gases released at high altitudes have a more concentrated effect.
In 2007 a total of 2.2 billion journeys were made by air. The volume of air traffic is soaring, and may even double over the next 20 years.
International aviation emissions are excluded from Kyoto agreement targets, partly because they are extremely difficult to attribute to any particular country. As the French climate change and energy expert Jean-Marc Jancovici puts it: “to which country do you attribute the emissions of a Swiss passenger on a British Airways flight from Paris to Naples?” Various taxation alternatives are being considered. In 2012 the European Union plans to impose emission quotas on air carriers operating out of the continent.
What are the solutions? For trips under 400 miles (1,000 kilometers), taking a train is often faster and always more eco-friendly than taking a plane, although an air ticket may still be cheaper because kerosene is not taxed.
Overall, we must rethink the way we use transport. We don’t have to travel to the ends of the Earth to have a good holiday. In the workplace, businesses can cut back on travel by encouraging meetings by conference call or video conferencing.