Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Branson Calls for Reduction in Airline CO2 - Westjet Responds

British billionaire Richard Branson, who last week announced he was dedicated $3 billion towards anti-global warming initiatives, has issued a call to the airline industry for a 25% reduction in CO2 across the board.

Branson's proposals focus in large part on efficiency improvements that include reducing aircraft idling, which can be anywhere from 60-90 minutes per flight, by using a tug to bring planes to the starting grid 10 minutes before take off. Another plan is to condense European air traffic control systems in order to optimize the use of airspace. Currently there are 35 different air traffic control organizations operating in Europe, versus just one in the US.

British Airways has come out saying that global warming is a "critical problem facing the whole industry", and endorses many of Branson's ideas. They are also already committed to a working group of 70 airlines and airport owners to address the problem, of which Branson's Virgin Atlantic is one.

Seemingly in response to Branson's call, Westjet is now offsetting the CO2 for its flights booked through its green partner, Offsetters, at no extra cost. Passengers wishing to take advantage should book their flights with Westjet by clicking the Westjet logo on the page. Bookmark the site and return for all your domestic travel plans.

For those not flying Westjet, consider making your flight carbon neutral by purchasing your own carbon offset credits. The cost of offsetting a return trip from Toronto to Vancouver is just $10.97, New York to LA is $16.31, and Chicago to LA is a bargain at $9.19.


Altavistagoogle said...

Are you sure that spending money on planting trees does anything positive? As far as I can tell, trees are carbon nutral. That is they will release as much carbon (thru decay or burning) as they store.

Some suggest that harvesting wood for long term products (houses and furniture) would store the carbon as long as the wood product, at the end of its usefull life, is put in a landfill with methane capturing.

An other option is to burn the wood for heating (instead of oil).

However, I would submit that cheaper wood (thru trading of carbon credits) might reduce the price of wood products, encouraging fosil fuel intensive uses such as single family dwellings.

Odiyya said...

One thing to note is planting a tree is just one way to offset carbon dioxide. Other programs listed at include energy efficient bulb installation and supplying high efficience cook stoves to developing communities.

As for trees, they definitely help. Number one, when a tree is planted (and left) it has a potential lifespan of centuries during which it will remove carbon from the atmosphere.

After it has died, the carbon it aborbs will largely remain in the ground, rather than the air. This is where our current coal and oil deposits came from. Cutting down trees accomplishes the same carbon storage as what would have happened had it been buried in the dirt, except that we miss out on all the future years that it would have been alive to extract more carbon.

As for burning, this directly releases stored carbon back into the air.

During his speech in NYU, Al Gore noted that 2.5 trillion tons of carbon are added to the air by burning each year. That equals about one quarter of the total world emissions.

And in a world of increasing population, and minimal reforestation we're not really in a position of seeing 'cheaper forests'. If we manage to plant so many trees that we actually draw down world timber prices, then I think we can all celebrate and start addressing peripheral problems then, IF they arise.