11 key takeaways from the IPCC report for travel industry
The latest report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) brings some positive news: We can halve emissions by 2030. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming. But the evidence is clear: we must act now.
“Having the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place to enable changes to our lifestyles and behavior can result in a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential. The evidence also shows that these lifestyle changes can improve our health and wellbeing.” IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Priyadarshi Shukla
One chapter of the IPCC report is devoted to transportation (including travel). Profound changes are needed in the sector to meet climate goals, and decarbonizing the aviation industry remains a major challenge. Here are 11 key findings from the IPCC report that every travel business owner should know.
1. Air traffic up, but during COVID, emissions came down
Between 2010 and 2019, air traffic grew by 3.3% year over year, but due to lockdowns and restrictions on travel, emissions from international air travel fell by 45% in 2020 compared to 2019.
In 2019, direct GHG emissions from the transport sector accounted for 23% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. 12% of direct transport emissions came from aviation.
2. The future of aviation
It is very uncertain how aviation will recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but according to the International Energy Agency’s scenario, aviation will return to 2019 levels in three years and then continue to grow.
3. The aviation industry remains hard to decarbonize
Although major investments have been made in engine technology to improve fuel-burning efficiency, there will be no major changes to aircraft configurations until at least 2037. The IPCC report also notes that aircraft navigation is relatively efficient from a global perspective, and CO2 emissions reductions from improved aircraft technology or operations are limited and cannot keep pace with projected growth.
4. New fuels can reduce aviation emissions
The sources cited by the IPCC claim that the only way to reduce emissions is to use lower-carbon biofuels or synthetic aviation fuels. For shorter distances, light aircraft carrying up to 50 passengers could be powered by electricity. A major obstacle to sustainable aviation fuels is their cost, which is about three times the price of kerosene.
5. Declaring flight emissions might become mandatory
Proposed measures to influence air travel demand include regulations to ban frequent flyer reward schemes and including all taxes and fees that airline tickets are currently exempted from.
Another idea is to require all airlines to provide information to potential consumers about the emissions of their flights.
6. Increased interest in high-speed rail
High-speed trains compete with air travel on some routes. It is estimated that the sweet spot for high-speed trains is in routes that are between 400 and 800 km. On the Rome-Milan route, for example, the better frequency and connections, as well as the low cost of high-speed rail – resulting from competition between train companies – have significantly reduced the share of air travel and the share of buses and cars.
7. Personal values influence travel choices
There is evidence that environmental values influence travelers’ decisions. For example, people are more likely to drive less if they care about the environment. In addition, consumers who are shown energy efficiency labels are, on average, more likely to purchase energy-efficient appliances compared to those who are not. Information policies can also help change social norms around consumption decisions, including travel decisions.
8. Carbon labeling
Energy efficiency labels, carbon certification, and labeling are already widely used. They can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging voluntary choices and behavior change. Energy efficiency labeling for cars is already widely used, and carbon labeling is used for food and tourism.
9. Need for third-party verification of emissions
Implementing effective labeling requires appropriate calculation methods and tools, training, and public awareness. In systems where manufacturers self-report the performance of their products, misrepresentation and biased energy efficiency labeling can occur. To avoid inconsistencies and accusations of greenwashing, it is best to use third-party verification tools and mechanisms.
10. Consumers’ behavior can accelerate climate change mitigation
Lifestyle changes can help limit greenhouse gas emissions. Among the 60 identified actions that could change individual consumption, individual mobility choices have the greatest potential to reduce carbon footprints. Options with high mitigation potential include prioritizing car-free mobility and reducing air travel.
11. Consumers can drive the change
As the report states, well-informed people whose personal norms align with low-carbon mobility goals and who believe they have control over their choices can influence demand for more sustainable travel options.
For forward-thinking tour operators, it is now apparent that consumer awareness of the environmental costs of travel is growing. While air travel remains difficult to decarbonize, travelers may be willing to choose greener travel options (e.g., high-speed trains for shorter distances). There is also a need for transparent information about the carbon footprint of flights and other travel products. This can be easily achieved with solutions like Oncarbon – a complete toolkit for calculating and communicating the carbon footprint of travel products. To learn more, book a call with our team.
The responsibility for mitigating global warming is in our hands. Climate change is the result of more than a century of unsustainable energy and land use, lifestyles, and consumption and production patterns. The IPCC report shows how we can act now to create a more equitable, sustainable world. As IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Jim Skea said: “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”
The full version of the IPCC report can be found here.
Original cover picture: Canva/Travellinglight.