Climate-neutral flying - is that really possible?
It sounds too good to be true: flying on vacation without polluting the environment with CO2 emissions. We check out what climate-neutral flying is all about.
It is a beautiful and almost lost feeling, which is currently spreading again: Flying on vacation to foreign countries, great beaches, exciting cities - and all this without being so deterred by pandemic measures that you would prefer not to take the trip at all. Air traffic is slowly waking up from its forced break. Now, with the start of the summer vacations, flying is once again a hot topic. However, many people's consciences are also beginning to prick up again, because air travel is one of the most environmentally damaging forms of transportation.
SAF, the sustainable kerosene alternative
In fact, air travel is one of the top 10 climate sins. Emissions from air travel are particularly harmful to the climate because they are deposited directly into high atmospheric layers. They therefore promote the greenhouse effect more strongly than emissions near the ground. Just one flight from Zurich to Miami and back emits around three tons of CO2. The airlines are aware of the problem. Many airlines have therefore started to offer climate-neutral flights. And they are doing so by offering climate-neutral flights through compensation payments.
Swiss customers, for example, can buy climate-neutral fuel when booking. In this way, the airline offers them the option of offsetting the majority of CO2 emissions generated by flights with sustainable alternative fuels. This so-called Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is "one of the most promising options for making the future of flying climate neutral," the company writes.
Supporting sustainable projects with flights
There are two options for this type of carbon offset: You can replace fossil fuels one-to-one with SAF. For this, you are charged the price difference between SAF and kerosene. As a customer, you pay the surcharge for the sustainable fuel, and the airline feeds it into its flight operations. However, travelers can also support sustainable projects via the myclimate foundation and thus have a positive effect on the climate. Through the "Compensaid" platform, you can choose which approach you want to use to reduce the CO2 emissions of your trip.
The problem with "climate neutrality
So can you really fly on vacation without a guilty conscience? Unfortunately, despite these convincing-sounding offers, it's not quite that simple. Because climate neutrality basically means that the climate is not affected by a process. However, when flying with SAF, CO2 emissions are merely reduced, not eliminated. Moreover, flight operations themselves are not particularly climate neutral, offsets or not.
A study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) even comes to the conclusion that it would be most effective in the future, too, if airplanes used fossil fuel. However, the emitted CO2 should then be removed from the atmosphere in capture plants and stored underground. This is the so-called "carbon capture and storage" principle.
In fact, however, such projects are only in their infancy. That's why it still makes sense to limit air travel whenever possible. But climate-neutral flying is definitely a step in the right direction - and for peace of mind on the beach, the offer is certainly not a bad idea.
About the author
Lukas Rüttimann is a journalist, copywriter and storyteller. He has worked for numerous Swiss newspapers and magazines, in various capacities from reporter to editor-in-chief. As a freelancer, he covers a broad spectrum, with sustainable, social, cultural and economic topics particularly close to his heart. Lukas Rüttimann has lived in the USA, among other places, but now lives and works from Zurich.