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Carbon Footprints and The Travel Industry

Twelve months after an international accord, the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) set new targets to help airlines reduce carbon emissions, the question of carbon footprints remains a vexed one. Although airlines remain the focus of attention, continued consumer concern means that this is an issue for the entire travel industry.


Of course, carbon offsetting schemes have been a feature of many sustainable travel companies for well over a decade. In recent years, however, the emphasis has shifted away from offsetting carbon emissions via investing in tree planting or sustainable energy programmes and towards concrete cuts in emissions. CORSIA is intended to lead the way but with major players including Russia and India still not on board and no definitive obligation on any airline to adhere to their quota of carbon emissions, its effectiveness remains in question.


Many businesses are ahead of the game. With carbon footprints featuring prominently in many Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports, it is unsurprising that, where possible, companies are utilising video and audio link-ups rather than face-to-face meetings. They also tend to be well-versed in carbon offsetting schemes. Ultimately, airlines signed up to CORSIA may also fall back on carbon offsetting if they exceed their quotas. However, as widely reported in the press, the environmental lobby is increasingly uneasy – and in certain quarters, downright querulous – over the efficacy and morality of carbon offsetting. If, as seems likely, this approach finds further support among business and leisure travellers, the travel industry must stand ready to address environmental concerns and offer new approaches to help individuals travel as “greenly” as possible.

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