Of all the activities that individual consumers engage in, flying is one of the most polluting; as a means of transport it is far and away the most environmentally unfriendly, each flight spewing thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet aeroplanes have also become synonymous with freedom and discovery – they allow us to visit those far flung coastal get-aways and explore distant continents that once would have been beyond reasonable reach. These machines satisfy our appetite for travel in a way that land-bound vehicles rarely can.
It is therefore, an uncomfortable truth that the same planes that make these voyages possible are also causing irreparable harm to the very planet that we take such pleasure in flying around.
Denmark leading the way
In her New Year’s address, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen set the most ambitious targets yet with regards to aviation, declaring her intention to “make flying green” by 2030. Exactly how this will be achieved is not entirely clear yet given that the technology to make this possible is not yet ready on the required scale.
However, Frederiksen believes that by making a clear and concrete commitment now, this will provide the impetus for the innovation that could lead to considerably less-polluting aviation.
Unlike cars, where the electric market is growing year on year, the size and weight of the battery required for a commercial flight makes this option impractical. More likely is looking to hydrogen planes as a greener alternative – Airbus has already announced plans to develop planes fuelled by hydrogen to be operational by 2035. However, in order for this to qualify as a “green” solution, the hydrogen would need to be produced using renewable energies.
Overall, Denmark aims to cut carbon emissions by 70% by 2030, compared to levels in 1990. It hopes that the first domestic “green” flights can take off as soon as 2025.
Travel that doesn’t cost the earth
As the world seems to finally wake up to the scale of the environmental problem we face, many conventional habits have been reconsidered. In Europe, 2021 was the European Year of Rail – an initiative that sought to promote rail travel as an alternative to driving or flying. This saw the extension of some lines and plans to create better rail links between regions.
In France, plans are under way to ban domestic flights where the journey could be made by train in less than 2.5 hours.