“How was your holiday?” I used to love chatting to friends and family about their travels, now I ask the question with trepidation. How are they managing on their budget? They must be stacking up a huge credit bill that will have to get paid by someone.
I’m talking carbon emission budgets of course.
With Leeds-Bradford Airport so close it’s pretty easy to pick up a cheap (£) flight and get away from it all, but what’s the real cost to the local area, our neighbours and our children?
Travelling economy class return to the Maldives uses about a quarter of the UK person’s annual carbon footprint. Being great with your recycling will not balance the books.
In April Harrogate District Council agreed to work with others to cut local greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 and our national government amended the Climate Change Act this month to line up with this target too.
On average, we each have a carbon footprint of about 12 tonnes of CO2 in the UK. To give us 60% chance of staying below 1.5 degree C of global warming we need to halve this in the next 10 years.
For other types of transport, there are non-fossil fuel alternatives: electric or hydrogen trains, electric buses, such as the Transdev fleet in Harrogate, electric vehicles, and of course walking or cycling for those short journeys around town.
But low carbon flying is a hard nut to crack. Aeroplanes are heavy things to get off the ground and use a lot of fuel, so for each kilometre of a short haul flight 140 grams of carbon dioxide are emitted per passenger (g/CO2/p/km). Electric or bio fuel commercial flights are not going to be viable for some years yet.
This is a difficult dilemma for many of us. Travel opens our eyes to different global perspectives; we learn and are enriched by other cultures or perhaps we have family or friends abroad and these “love miles” are important to us. If you have to fly make good use of the carbon cost you expend, go less frequently and for longer, and make sure you carbon offset with a local tree planting scheme.
But what about those quick getaways and short breaks? Are there alternatives with a lower carbon cost?
With all of Yorkshire on our doorstep a staycation could be an attractive option. Why fly to Colorado Springs to see the Balanced Rock when Brimham Rocks are arguably more spectacular, or check out World Heritage Site Fountains Abbey for a religious ruins experience, rather than trekking 12,000 miles to Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Spending more time and money in the Harrogate District also helps to boost the local economy.
Travel to mainland Europe or Ireland is perfectly possible by rail (40 g/CO2/p/km), coach (76 g/CO2/p/km) or car (120 g/CO2/p/km) and you can include the journey as part of the holiday adventure and take in the sights along the way.
Disneyland Paris is a mere 800km away compared to 13,500km for Disneyland Florida and the additional 2,500kg CO2 per person from the flight is not much of a treat for our children’s future.
Find out the carbon cost of your flights using a carbon footprint calculator and have a great summer wherever you go, and get planning for a “cheap” carbon holiday next year.