aircraft, copyright Pamela Reyes

carbon and air transport compensation

Summary

It is possible to offset your carbon emissions, due in particular to your trip by plane. Of course, this does not cancel the impact of your trips, 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 from the various European carbon credit sales organizations. Here are the ones we recommend:

atmosfair logo en  greentripper logo rand 2   goodplanet   csm myclimate logo rgb 281ca1896d  carbonfoorprint  


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 the combustion of kerosene. Its production is linked to the mass of fuel by a constant ratio: one tonne of kerosene always produces 3,04 tonnes of CO2. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are not greenhouse gases, but they have an indirect effect on climate change. They are responsible for the creation of ozone and the destruction of methane, both of which are greenhouse gases. Global CO2 emissions generated by aviation now represent between 2,2% and 3,2% of global emissions from fossil fuels.

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

On the whole, there has been an increase in the number of tourists, in the order of 6 to 7% per year since 2015. This logically has direct repercussions on CO2 emissions. According to current trend projections, the share of CO2 emissions from aviation could rise to 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

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

Liability of air carriers  

Air carriers highlight the advances made in terms of consumption per passenger kilometers (lighter aircraft, improved 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 offset some of the nuisances generated by our way of life. Compensating for a trip consists of evaluating the quantity of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitted for this trip and of financing a project that is supposed 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 tonne is set at the whim of each organization, which has its own criteria. Today, there are various sites allowing an online simulation to be carried out to assess the mass of GHGs to be compensated for according to a trip (or all of our acts 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, etc.),

  • 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) forestry programs to trap CO2.
    Planting trees only shifts the problem in time, and in space, since we produce CO2 here and now, and plant there for tomorrow ... We are trying to put in parallel, different carbon cycles, which are neither synchronous, nor of the same nature. If this means is the least sure, it is also the cheapest to implement. In addition, it is easier to communicate over hectares than intangible kilowatt-hours.
  • Development programs for renewable energies or those linked to energy efficiency.
    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 offsetting GHG emissions, they ensure the conversion of the money given into non-GHG emissions.

certifications

  The projects to be financed are generally certified. Certifications vary. Here are the main ones:

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

  • The standard Gold label.
    The latter depends on a Swiss foundation initiated by WWF, SSN, Helio international and is supported by more than 60 NGOs. The Gold Standard requirements go further than a CDM project by imposing, for example, the additionality criterion for small-scale projects.

  • the VCS (Voluntary Carbon Standard).
    It is headed by a committee made up of members of NGOs, consulting firms, industrial 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 us to be the most restrictive of the standards, the Gold Standard label being the most complete. They care about the social and environmental impacts and benefits of projects. The other labels nevertheless remain in an advanced and admissible quality approach.

Organizations selling carbon credits  

There are many carbon credit sales organizations. We have listed a few of them and carried out a summary comparative study based on a concrete example: a return trip by plane Paris / Bangkok in Thailand.

Comparative table of organizations selling carbon credits

 

Greentripper

(CO2logic)

GoodPlanet

 CarbonFootprint 

Atmosfair  MyClimate

Status

Company

Foundation

 Company 

Non-profit organization

Foundation

Head office

Belgium

France

  UK

Germany

Swiss

CO2 Emission (Tonnes)

4,18

4,14

2,52

6,16

3,1

Price

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

93%

Not specified  

91%

80%

Standards / labels

Gold Standard 

Not specified

VSC

Gold Standard

Gold Standard mainly

Gold Standard

SEE

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 the volumes making it possible to reach the Kyoto objectives, even by accumulating all the technical solutions whose cost increases exponentially with technology and the volumes to be treated.
  • 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 ...

Bibliography  

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

info-compensation-carbone.com

Resource Center on greenhouse gas balances. ADEME