EU says transport emissions increased, other sectors saw a fall
Issue #31 of Sustainability in the Air Newsletter
While other industry sectors decreased their carbon output, emissions from the transport sector in the EU increased by 7% from 1990-2020.
This is according to the EU’s European statistics agency, Eurostat, as reported in Schengen Visa Info.
Energy, manufacturing and household / consumer goods all saw a fall in the levels of CO2. However, transport saw an increase of 50 million tonnes in carbon over the two decades.
Aviation is of course only a small part of the transport sector, but further Eurostat figures put it into perspective.
Those statistics show that international aviation more than doubled carbon emissions from 1990-2020 before COVID caused a drop back down to 1990 levels.
Climate change activists of course want it to stay there, however, the EU’s projections show an increase back to where the industry was in 2019.
Meanwhile, domestic aviation is projected to stay at 1990 carbon levels. This comes as European Governments try to encourage train use for domestic journeys.
In the EU, road transport emissions increased slightly, while rail's share decreased - we assume because of the switch from diesel to electric in many European countries.
As we said in our newsletter yesterday, these findings are one reason why aviation executives should treat the soundbite of "it's only 2.6%" with care, as aviation's share has grown and the industry is of course looking for more growth, which could then lead to more emissions.
In fact, the argument that growth is incompatible with reducing carbon is one of the arguments Dutch climate activists are making against KLM in the greenwashing court case.
As a result, it's better to admit that yes, the industry would like more people to fly as it's transformative for a lot of communities and benefits economies. However, the industry intends to do so while reaching net zero, and here is how.
Our last newsletter also touched on a related argument made by climate change groups, that of so-called climate justice, where they claim that the rich fly while the poor pay by way of climate change.
One activist even called leisure flyers "airport criminals" in a newspaper piece.
Namely that stopping air travel increases inequality between the Global North and South.
Using figures taken from the travel bans of 2020-2021, Gerben pointed out that the net effect of this was that rich countries stayed rich, while poorer countries became even poorer from the loss of connectivity.
“Travel and trade allow for distribution of wealth (given reasonable trade agreements/ownership), creates wealth (specialisation) and is something people and organisations are willing to pay well for.
"We should leverage this consumer/producer surplus to finance energy transitions in countries that do not have the ability to finance it themselves. Less travel and trade will only make it harder for these countries to finance it.”
This is highly relevant and as we’ve discussed in the past, these are exactly the kind of arguments the aviation industry needs to come out with to combat the myth that flying is somehow ‘selfish.’
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