Aviation is the traffic mode that emits the most greenhouse gases per person and kilometer. Aviation emits 74,000 times more carbon dioxide than the Swedish train. During the pandemic in 2020, Swedes’ holiday trips abroad decreased by 84%. A breath-taking reduction of 12 million trips in 2019 to 1.9 million in 2020.
Globally, air transport emissions (pre-pandemic) account for 4-5% of global emissions, according to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. A research report from Chalmers made in 2018 shows, however, that Swedes fly five times more than the average, and if the aviation-related emissions are distributed to the entire population, each Swede causes 1.1 tonnes of emissions each year. This is more than the total carbon budget which the UN has stated that every person should have at their disposal for their entire lifestyle (food, housing, consumption, transport) by 2050. Read more for information and advice for conscious aviation.
Aviation’s carbon dioxide emissions per person
A return flight to Thailand in terms of emissions corresponds to approximately all other transports an average person does the rest of the year. The climate impact of that flight alone exceeds the total annual emission level for a person that researchers consider to be sustainable.
Round trip → Sweden → Paris = 0.60 Ton CO2e
Round trip → Sweden → Barcelona = 0.86 Ton CO2e
Round trip → Sweden → Mallorca = 0.92 Ton CO2e
Round trip → Sweden → Gran Canaria = 1.76 Ton CO2e
Round trip → Sweden → Thailand = 3.28 Ton CO2e
Round trip → Sweden → Hong Kong = 3.26 Ton CO2e
Round trip → Sweden → New York = 2.52 Ton CO2e
Round trip → Sweden → Hawaii = 4.40 Ton CO2e
Round trip → Sweden → Mexico = 3.78 Ton CO2e
The numbers above are calculated according to this site. The numbers may differ depending on which service you use to calculate the emissions. This is because some services only show carbon dioxide emissions and do not consider other aspects as the high-altitude effect (the longer the distance, the greater part of the journey is made at high altitude), take-off weight, the time the aircraft rolls on the ground before and after a flight, temperature, and air pressure. The type of aircraft also affects the emissions. This is because the engines and manufacturing process of the fuel and/or the plane are different.
The high-altitude effect
- Combustion of aviation fuel produces emissions of greenhouse gases. It is mainly carbon dioxide and water vapor that is produced, but also methane and nitrous oxide.
- Since emissions from aviation occur at high altitudes where there is both thinner air and closer to the ozone layer, the emissions have a different impact on the environment. The total climate impact effect is estimated to be up to twice as large.
The aviation tax
- Today, the aviation industry is exempt from fuel taxes, energy taxes and carbon taxes. They are also exempt from VAT and often fly from publicly subsidized airports.
- In 2018, an aviation tax was introduced. Since then, air traffic from Swedish airports has decreased. It depends on several different factors, of which the aviation tax is one.
- The aviation tax means that we get to see the real cost of our travels when the environmental cost is included in the price for the first time. This hopefully leads to the value of the trip being re-evaluated.
- Climate compensation means that you compensate for the emissions of greenhouse gases you have caused. For example by donating money to companies that plant trees.
- According to a study from the Ecosystem Marketplace, companies which apply climate compensation are more active in reducing their emissions compared to companies that do not apply climate compensation.
- As a private person, you can often add climate compensation when you buy a plane ticket. There are also several external services available for climate compensation.
- To calculate what you should compensate for the climate, you can go here (in Swedish).
Advice for conscious aviation
- Flying is the activity that individuals can do that causes the greatest climate impact. Therefore it makes a big difference if you do not fly.
- Think about whether you really must take the flight where you are going. Maybe you can take a bus or train?
- If you fly, choose economy class as it means more passengers per plane.
- Take direct flights to reduce emissions at take-off and landing.
- Fly less often and if you have the opportunity, stay away for a longer period.
- Choose an airline that has collective agreement and that guarantees good working conditions for its employees.
Page updated 2021.