Report: Flying beats the bus for environment

By John Parnell

Travelling by coach is worse for the environment than flying, according to a new study by the University of East Anglia.

It says that because emissions from aviation are offset under an EU-wide trading scheme (EU-ETS) and coach journeys are not, travellers on a plane will have a lower carbon footprint.

According to the carbon calculating website GCO2, a typical flight from London to Glasgow emits 160kg of CO2 per person, compared to approximately 17kg by coach.

Since airlines in the EU take part in an emissions trading scheme, this is effectively ‘wiped’ from the slate, whereas the bus journey is not.

“Consumers who want to reduce the climate impact of their consumption and lifestyle should focus on reducing emissions not regulated by the EU ETS, such as road transport, agriculture and other sectors with low energy intensity,” said Dr Perinio.

Reducing your time on the roads will cut global carbon but cutting flights within the EU will not, says the study. (Source: Flickr/StuckInCustoms)

“Driving your car less, eating less red meat and improving the insulation of your home substantially reduces your carbon footprint,” he added.

“If you consider making a trip from London to Glasgow, flying has higher physical GHG emissions than a coach journey.

“However, additional emissions of flights are fully offset by the EU ETS, even without buying the offsets offered by most airlines when buying tickets, while those of the coach are not and therefore are additional. Surprising as it may sound, going by coach increases total emissions more than flying.”

Perino also recommends that those that want the EU to reduce emissions further should pressure politicians to reduce the total volume of emissions allowances permitted under the ETS.

EU airlines are still part of the European carbon market despite international airlines being exempted last year.

Critics of the paper say the additional benefits of energy efficiency and changing transport choices must be considered along side the emission reductions.

“If we can cut energy use the benefits will be significant. We will not have to extract so many raw materials to build the power stations,” Trewin Restorick, CEO of Global Action Plan, a charity that runs environmental behaviour change projects told RTCC.

“We will not need so many battles between people desperate to preserve the beauty of the landscape versus those arguing for the need for new wind farms to keep the lights on. We will not need so many power lines cutting swathes across the UK and the quality of our air will improve,” he said.

“These are significant benefits that will enhance the quality of life for us all. They all seem to have been overlooked in the University of East Anglia report which takes an overly narrow and simplistic view of the situation,” Restorick added.

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