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aircraft, copyright Pamela Reyes

Carbon Compensation & air transport


It is possible to offset your carbon emissions, especially due to your flight. Of course, this does not negate the impact of your travel, but allows you to compensate for the harm by supporting one or more programs to reduce greenhouse gases. We have made a selection for you among the various European organizations selling carbon credit, here are the ones we recommend:

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Air Transport

global context

Since the Kyoto Protocol in 1992, anthropogenic CO2 is recognized as one of the greenhouse gases (GHGs), playing an important role in global warming. Tourism is an important part of the process as it alone accounts for 5% of CO2's global emissions. ¾ of these emissions are linked to transport (and in particular to air transport).

Impact of aviation on climate change

The influence of aviation on climate change is of many kinds. The IPCC has identified three phenomena that have an impact on climate change.

Modification of the quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere directly (CO2) or indirectly (nitrogen oxides)

CO2 is one of the main products of kerosene combustion. Its production is linked to fuel mass by a constant ratio: one ton of kerosene still produces 3,04 tons of CO2. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are not greenhouse gases, but they indirectly affect climate change. They are responsible for creating ozone and destroying methane, both greenhouse gases. Global CO2 emissions from aviation now represent between 2,2 and 3,2% of global fossil fuel emissions.

The formation of contrails

Associated with water vapor emissions, emissions of sulfur oxides and particulates lead to the formation of contrails. These cover about 0,1% of the Earth's surface. Similar to fine clouds of altitude, they warm the atmosphere by their optical properties.

The modification of cloudiness of cirrus clouds

When the contrails become persistent, they become cirrus, altitude clouds that naturally cover about 30% of the Earth's surface. The cirrus produced by the contrails would cover between 0% and 0,2% of the surface of the globe.

Increase in air traffic

There is an overall increase in the number of tourists, from 6 to 7% per year since 2015. This logically has a direct impact on CO2 emissions. Based on projections of the current trend, the share of CO2 emissions from aviation could rise to 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2050.

Air transport with its 700 million tonnes of CO2 emitted worldwide is responsible for at least 2% of the CO2 emissions of the planet. If air transport was a country, it would be the 7th largest polluter in the world. If other pollutions are taken into account, in addition to CO2, air transport is responsible for 5% of climate change related to human activities due to its emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SOx) and condensation trails that warm the surface of the Earth.

Liability of air carriers

Air carriers highlight the progress made in terms of consumption per passenger kilometers (aircraft lightening, improvement of engines and air traffic management). But this progress is largely offset by the increase in the number of planes and kilometers traveled.

In addition, unlike automotive fuels, kerosene aircraft is not taxed, which is far from encouraging carriers to see their consumption down!

Carbon offsetting

The purpose of offsetting our greenhouse gases is to counterbalance some of the nuisances generated by our way of life. Offsetting a trip consists of evaluating the amount of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitted for that trip and financing a project that is expected to reduce GHG emissions by the same amount.

For individuals, carbon offsetting is a voluntary act by the consumer. The sums collected are managed by private organizations, in an unregulated sector, which individually establish their own criteria. These organizations initiate or delegate field actions aimed at storing carbon or removing / replacing activities generating GHGs. Hence the term compensation.

Eco-responsibility of travelers

In 60 years, our individual mobility has increased from 1500 to 4500 km per year. The world opens up to us, so how can we not want to discover it? This is understandable, but by adopting responsible behavior:

  • By limiting flights and / or optimizing journeys by preferring the train as soon as it is possible,

  • By increasing the time spent on site,

  • By offsetting the carbon emitted. This compensation is voluntary. Warning: compensation is at best a way to mitigate the effects of our way of life. It is not about overconsumption by imagining a few tens of euros will be enough to erase our excesses!

How does it work?

The compensation process has three stages:

  1. The calculation of the applicant's GHG emissions.

  2. The conversion to compensation cost and the proposal for a GHG reduction project to be supported.

  3. The monitoring and control of the project, because the customer must have the guarantee of the reality of the "gain of CO2" obtained thanks to its financing.

Who are the bodies?

Still of private status, some are for-profit, others are not.

How do they evaluate the value of your programs?

As this sector lives on the fringes of the regulated market, the price per ton is set according to the goodwill of each organization, which has its own criteria. Today there are different sites for online simulation to assess the mass of GHG to compensate for a displacement (or all our actions of daily life).

Criteria for project selection

For compensation to be effective, and therefore real, at least two conditions must be met:

  • A quality project (sustainability, social and environmental benefits, measurability of CO2 gains ..),

  • That the principle of additionality is absolutely respected; that is to say, it must be certain that the funded project will not only allow a saving of GHG emissions, but that this economy could not have existed without the project being (co) financed by the compensation program.

Finance what type of project?

(Re) forestation programs to trap CO2 Planting trees only shifts the problem over time, and into space, since we produce CO2 here and now, and plant it there for tomorrow ... we try to parallel different carbon cycles, which are neither synchronous nor of the same nature. If this means is the least secure, it is also the least expensive to implement. In addition, it is easier to communicate on acres than intangible kilowatt hours.

Renewable energy or energy efficiency development programs : this type of program makes it possible to produce renewable energies instead of fossil fuels. These two areas are therefore much more recommendable, in terms of GHG emissions offsets, because they ensure the conversion of the given money into non-GHG emissions.


The projects to be financed are generally certified. These certifications vary here are the main ones:

  • The CDM certificate - or Clean Development Mechanism. Totally independent of specifiers, project sellers, project developers, the certificate is awarded by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

  • The Gold Standard label : the latter depends on a Swiss foundation initiated by WWF, SSN, Helio International and is supported by more than 60 NGO. Gold Standard's requirements go beyond a CDM project by, for example, imposing additionality criteria for small-scale projects.

  • the VCS (Voluntary Carbon Standard). It is led by a committee made up of members of NGOs, consulting firms, industry associations, project developers and compensation clients.

  • The VER standard. It was developed by Tüv Süd, an expert firm, which partly finances its operation. The Tüv Süd committee has 4 members who oversee and manage the VER + standard criteria.

The MDP and Gold Standard labels seem to be the most restrictive standards, the Gold Standard label being the most complete. They care about the social and environmental impacts and benefits of projects. The other labels, however, remain in an approach of high quality and acceptable.

Organizations selling carbon credits

There are many organizations selling carbon credit, we have listed a few and carried out a summary comparative study based on a concrete example: a return trip by plane Paris / Bangkok (Thailand).

Comparative table of organizations selling carbon credits





Atmosfair MyClimate





Non-profit organization


Head office






CO2 Emission (Tonnes)







50,55 €

80 €

17,8 €to 45,5 € (depending on project)

142 €

74 €

% of the amounts (HT) paid online reserved for compensation projects

Not specified


Not specified



Standards / labels

Gold Standard

Not specified


Gold Standard

Gold Standard mainly

Gold Standard


The limits of the concept of carbon offsetting

Carbon offsetting has its limits:

  • Compensating its CO2 emissions does not cancel other pollution generated by our transport, the effects of which are not always known (nitrogen protoxides, hydrofluorocarbons, etc.).
  • It will never be possible to store volumes to achieve the Kyoto targets, even by combining all the technical solutions, the cost of which exponentially increases with the technology and the volumes to be processed.
  • The compensation organizations being uncontrolled, we see the competition coming to the one who will evaluate our lowest emissions for the same trip and who will offer the cheapest ton ...


Impact of Air Travel on the Climate: Why Redo Calculations - the Conversation

"Climate Impact of Air Transport" - Wikipedia

Climate change: Impact on transportation. University Of Cambridge - BSR

Voluntary compensation - steps and limits. ADEME

Resource Center on greenhouse gas balances. ADEME