What if we ban short flights?  |  Ideas

What if we ban short flights? | Ideas

A group of activists from Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion occupy the main lounge of the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on November 5.
A group of activists from Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion occupy the main lounge of the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on November 5.Romy Arroyo Fernandez (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A means of transportation has been in the crosshairs of many environmental activists for years: the plane. The blame lies with the greenhouse gas emissions so high that aircraft expel to transport passengers when compared to other cleaner alternatives such as the train. Of the flygskam (shame to fly, in Swedish) that spread among many young activists in 2019 has turned to the debate about whether governments should veto short-haul flights where there is an alternative by train.

This is what France intends to do, which this month received the go-ahead from the European Commission to apply this ban. Its climate change law provides for this and finally Brussels has accepted that it can be done when it is possible to cover the same route by train in less than two and a half hours. At the moment, the measure (which does not yet have an application date) would affect three routes. At the same time, the European institutions have agreed to tighten the emissions market so that airlines pay more for the carbon dioxide emitted by flights within the EU. And within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) work is underway to implement a voluntary system for compensation of emissions from this sector throughout the world to contribute to the fight against climate change.

But how much does aviation contribute to the problem of global warming? According to the latest review report from the IPCC —the UN panel of experts that lay the foundations for the science of climate change—, flights expelled 2.79% of all carbon dioxide emissions in 2019 (the main gas greenhouse effect) of the world economy. But the same IPCC gave an example: only 1% of the world’s population is responsible for 50% of all commercial aviation emissions on the planet. The entire transport sector accumulates 23% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Vehicles on the roads are responsible for 70% of transport emissions, followed by air (12%), maritime (11%) and rail (1%).

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Furthermore, the rate of growth of aviation emissions worries scientists and activists. Between 2010 and 2019, greenhouse gases emitted by domestic and international flights grew at an annual rate of 3.3%, the highest rate in the entire transport sector (those from road travel increased at a rate of 1.7%, for example). And what is predicted for the coming decades is that this upward race will continue if really effective measures are not applied to replace the current fossil fuels that power the devices.

In the global fight against climate change there is a loophole: aviation and international maritime transport, for whose emissions no country is responsible and, therefore, they are left out of the national plans to cut gases that all the signatories of the Paris Agreement must present. That makes the level of ambition lower in both sectors, as the IPCC experts warned in that latest report, published in April. “In some cases, especially in aviation and maritime transport, sectoral agreements have adopted climate mitigation objectives that are well below what would be required to achieve the long-term temperature objective of the Paris Agreement,” they warn. scientists.

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