Avoiding Flygskam

Celebrating even the smallest step toward sustainable air travel

With the year stretching out ahead of me, and the days starting to get longer, my wanderlust is kicking in. It’s time to start planning my next holiday.

But for those of us trying to live lightly on the planet, travel planning isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Instead of pulling up a map and thinking about where I want to go, I now feel like there’s a minefield to navigate before I even get to the booking stage:

> Do we staycation or go abroad?

> To avoid flygskam (the Swedish term for flight-shaming), do we road trip, travel by train or try a cycle holiday?

> Is the boutique hotel I’ve been obsessing over on Instagram really planet-friendly or engaging in meaningless eco-greenwashing?

It’s almost enough to make me stay at home with the latest Netflix box set.

But I know that the trips I’ve taken have broadened my worldview, increased my empathy and developed a curiosity about different lifestyles, cuisines, and art. I want all those things and a clear conscience.

Which is why I was heartened to see headlines about the aviation industry committing to become net zero carbon neutral by 2050.

The UK Sustainable Aviation coalition have created a ‘Decarbonisation Road-Map: A Path to Net Zero’. This plan details how they will cut the current net emissions, which are 30 million tonnes of CO2 per year, to net zero. It’s an ambitious plan, especially when they’re still planning to accommodate a 70% increase in air passengers over that time.

Their roadmap has several key proposals:

> New aircraft technology, including hybrid electric flights for regional and European trips and moving toward pure-electric aircraft for short flights

> Sustainable aviation fuel, which can result in life cycle carbon savings of upwards of 70% compared to fossil jet fuel

> Improvements in air traffic management and operations both on the ground at airports as well as in the route networks in the UK airspace

> Carbon pricing through CORSIA, funding carbon reduction projects and sustainable development, as well as reducing demand for flying

Neil Robinson, Chair of Sustainable Aviation, said:

‘Climate change is a clear and pressing issue for people, businesses and governments across the world…

The UK is well-positioned to become one of the leaders in the green technologies of the future, including sustainable aviation fuels and electric flight, creating highly-skilled and well-paid jobs in the process, and we look forward to working in partnership with Ministers to help realise these opportunities.’

All of this is reliant on the government supporting the commitment through aerospace research and development for engine efficiency, funding to support sustainable aviation fuels and efforts to modernise airplanes.

Rt. Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, said:

‘The fight against climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the modern world, but the aviation sector’s commitment today is a huge step forward in creating a greener future.

Aviation has a crucial role to play in reducing carbon emissions, and with the help of new technologies, renewable fuels and our continued international co-operation through the UN agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, we’ll be able to strike that balance, creating a greener and cleaner future.’

There are critics who say that the measures don’t go far enough, fast enough. And they’re probably right. But with 2020 being hailed as the decade where we need to get our house in order, any steps forward are worth taking.

While I wait for the electric airlines to become a viable option, I’ll probably do more exploring in my own backyard with one trip abroad this year. Now to find a carbon offset initiative that will help ease my conscience…

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