Qantas aircraft carbon emissions: EU price hike

The Australian and various others are reporting today that Qantas will be slugged with an EU carbon tax penalty for some of their carbon emissions from next year. Details are a bit sketchy at the moment, but it's worth taking a look at some of the underlying issues.

I was interviewed by SBS World News on this topic. You can watch the full story here:

Firstly, the tax hit on Qantas shows us that whether or not Australia acts on carbon emissions, we will still be affected by costs imposed by countries who are taking a lead to reduce emissions.

Even if Australia’s carbon tax does not include international air travel, we need to face up to the fact that travelling by air is one of the most emissions intensive activities. For example, depending on your assumptions, a return flight from Sydney to London (in economy) generates over 5 tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent emissions.

To put that in perspective, global average emissions per capita are currently below 5 tonnes per person per year. Wealthy people can, in effect, blow their entire year's carbon budget in just two days of flying.

If we as individuals want to reduce our carbon emissions – we need to fly less. It is that simple. It is "that simple" because for the foreseeable future (several decades) there is no real way that we can drastically cut aircraft emissions (apart from flying less).

It is also worth noting that, at present, volatile oil prices have a far greater impact on the cost of air travel than any potential carbon tax or trading system. The impact of $30 a tonne carbon price, for example, would be around $10 for a return domestic flight and over $100 for return long haul international flights.

This will force the airlines to become more efficient, but ultimately we need travel smarter (and less) to reduce our emissions and excessive consumption of resources such as oil.

- Ryan McCarthy

By Ryan McCarthy | | News and updates |
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