- Date published:
7:01 am, April 24th, 2019 - 26 comments
Categories: business, climate change, Deep stuff, Environment, ETS, james shaw, parliamentary spending, public transport, sustainability, tourism, transport - Tags: air new zealand, air travel crisis, airport, carbon trading, FlyNeutral, offsetting
The aviation industry are (the) bad guys, right? They charge us an arm and a leg to get us to our well-deserved holiday destinations, cram us into a cabin like sardines in a tin and they are major contributors of global CO2 emissions.
To entice more people flying more air miles – “occupancy rates” is the technical term – airlines come up with all sorts of things to be able to provide a “more customised passenger experience”. They want us to “feel at home”, to give us more comfort (“even in Economy”), spray nice smells through the cabin (my favourite would be the smell of a warm wood fire with a glass of mulled wine on a cold Winter’s night) “promising greater passenger comfort”, and, of course, better and more personalised in-flight entertainment (where have I heard this before?), to just list a few.
This will do nothing to combat climate change and I was going to write a flippant post arguing that airlines should make the whole experience as uncomfortable as possible, especially in Business and First Class, to discourage people from flying. And airports should emulate Public Transport. For example: cold, boring, uncomfortable shelters for waiting passengers; long queues; horrible music in the waiting areas; food halls that rival those in shopping malls and train stations; overpriced parking with a limited number of spaces, preferably more than 10 minutes walking from the nearest covered or indoor space; really shitty or, even better, no connection with (other) PT.
However, that would not have been a constructive post to mitigate climate change and slightly unfair, as it turns out.
Did you know that Air New Zealand has a Customer Carbon Offset Programme called FlyNeutral? Well, I had never heard of it and I did fly with them quite recently. Of course, the programme is on a voluntary basis. Aha, I thought, this is going to cost heaps. After some searching, I found a nifty calculator and a return trip Auckland-Wellington produces this result:
Total distance flown: 960 km
Estimated emissions: 136 kg of CO2
Cost to offset this CO2: NZD$ 3.08
What bothered me is that I did not know about this. Ignorance is no excuse and, lo and behold, there is one article on Stuff.
The emissions for each flight are divided amongst the passenger seats on that flight, and passengers only have to tick the ‘Offset my carbon emissions’ box when booking to pay for their share.
I must have missed that box 🙁
Digging a little further:
Less than 5 per cent of people opt to pay more, however.
[AirNZ has] also been working hard to get flyers to offset, but has stopped short of going carbon neutral by including offsets with all flights.
For good measure, I also checked the Herald for articles on FlyNeutral. After all, NZ MSM is more or less a duopoly. It appears that FlyNeutral helped AirNZ win the Air Transport World Airline Industry Award of Eco Airline of the Year.
And according to the other one of only two articles:
Government ministers – some of the biggest air travellers – also contribute to the scheme, says [James] Shaw.
Eighty-three per cent of ministerial air travel in 2016 and 2017 was with Air NZ, or affiliated partners, followed by 96 per cent the following year.
Green Party MPs voluntarily offset their air travel through a scheme run outside Parliament and managed by the Green Party.
Other MPs’ travel, which is part of the official Office of the Clerk Inter-parliamentary relations travel programme, is offset too as agreed on after Shaw wrote to the Clerk last year.
The Speaker has also asked Parliamentary Services to investigate how emissions off-set policy can be applied more broadly for all MPs’ air or other travel.
Personally, I think all these initiatives are good but they need bolstering and more public awareness. Stopping short of making the carbon offset compulsory it should be changed into an opt-out rather than opt-in scheme. With less than 5% of all flyers opting-in this seems a logical thing to do. As a bonus, they could give flyers extra Airpoints™.
As you know, I’m no friend of offsetting and I advocate alternative ways of transport and travel like Professor Shaun Hendy. But sometimes air travel is unavoidable, especially when living in New Zealand, and then offsetting is a no-brainer, in my opinion.
Unsurprisingly, others are working hard to increase the uptake of voluntary carbon-offset schemes, which shouldn’t be too hard in the case of AirNZ; a focussed PR campaign with an ex-AB without an aviation license should do it. One such company, CarbonClick, still has to launch their product. Let’s hope it will be compelling.