Written by: Nasi Hako
The global aviation industry produces only 2.1% of all human-induced carbon emissions and is responsible for 12% of emissions in comparison to the 74% from road transport. But, this does not mean its effect should be overlooked.
This point was made by Ronnie Afema, pilot and Business Development Management at Airspace Africa. He was speaking at a presentation at the 1.5 Degrees: Africa’s Net Zero Conference and Exhibition. The session focused on mitigating the impact of aviation on climate change one tree at a time.
Various aviation entities have signed up to partner under the One Dollar Campaign, which aims to help aviation bodies offset their carbon emissions.
The Campaign is for the airline to charge an extra dollar for every ticket sold. This then translates to an extra tree to plant on behalf of the passenger.
How do trees offset aviation emissions?
According to Afema, at a cruising speed of 780km per hour from a Boeing 737-400, aviation fuel produces an equivalent of 90kg of carbon emissions per passenger per hour.
And while sustainable aviation fuels such as green hydrogen, for example, are exciting to look forward to, Afema emphasised that it will probably take at least 10 years for sustainable aviation fuels to take full shape while the industry continues to hurt the environment.
Therefore, in efforts to reach carbon neutrality and avoid a 1.5-degree rise in global temperatures, Afema noted the benefits of mass tree planting to decarbonise the environment.
A single tree, which acts as a natural carbon sink, absorbs anywhere between 10-40kgs of carbon emissions per year on average. Therefore, Afema argued, the aviation industry can offset a significant amount of carbon emissions by forming a large, natural carbon sink.
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Planting 5 million trees across Africa
“The science is clear,” Afema said referring to the IPCC report which spells out the world’s current need for action in trying to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and avoid rising global temperatures. “Just because [the aviation sector contributes] the least [carbon emissions], we can’t refer to it as a positive,” Afema said.
He thinks a fast-growing commercial airline could plant more than 2,000 trees a month through an initiative like the One Dollar Campaign.
“If you’re planting more than 2,000 trees [in a month], in 10 months, that’s almost 20,000 [trees],” he said. “We shall be proudly and confidently talking about the impact this industry is having in trying to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions.”
With this in mind, Afema, therefore, encouraged Aviation bodies who have not yet signed up for the campaign to contribute to its goal of planting over 5 million trees across Africa.
“It’s our collective responsibility to save our planet by protecting our environment. Airlines that take part in this campaign with therefore help to decarbonise the environment,” he said. ESI
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