How SA airports (and some spekboom) are fighting long-haul 'flight shame'

2019-09-20 04:45
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Flygskam (Swedish for flight shame), has become a full-on, anti-flying movement after Swedish singer Staffan Lindberg announced his decision to give up flying, back in 2017. Ever since, passenger numbers have seen a decline as Swedish airports report an overall drop in air travel, says the BBC.

More and more people are pushing for eco-friendly travel by encouraging slow, clean travel over flying which generates a lot of carbon emissions - in fact, a recent report by HSBC Global Research noted that, globally, the transport sector is responsible for 24% of emissions from use of fossil fuels for energy, and 15.7% of the overall total from human activities.  Consequently, this movement could have an impact on long-haul destinations like South Africa, which heavily relies on international tourism.

Continent hopping holidays: OUT! Rail journeys with a much, much, much lower carbon footprint: IN!

According to a study carried out by the International Council on Clean Transportation, says most people are, in fact, not ashamed of the way they fly. Around half of people in the U.S. do not fly and the bigger emission issue actually lies with a small group of frequent fliers. 

Here are the worst offenders for air travel emissions around the world:  

Infographic: The Worst Offenders For Air Travel Emissions | StatistaHere 

But giving up air travel is not easy for everyone. As romantic as the idea of slow, extended train journeys is, for so many around the world travelling by rail is made more difficult due to a lack in infrastructure, safety concerns, time constraints and connectivity. Think about train services in South Africa, or infrastructure in Indonesia, where the archipelago is mainly accessed by ocean or air, for example. 

#notallcountriescan Sweden. 

WATCH: Passengers master the art of disembarking a plane  

Finding a balance between taking accountability for CO2 emissions while still travelling long-haul is the ultimate, and ongoing challenge. One that South Africa is constantly addressing in an effort to keep tourism alive, and our environment intact.  

What is being done in SA?

In 2018, airports in the Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) programme achieved a reduction of CO2 of 347 026 tons, the strongest absolute reduction since it began. So far about 240 airports around the world have received different levels of accreditation, covering 43% of passenger traffic. 

The ACA programme independently assesses and recognises the efforts of airports to manage and reduce their carbon emissions through four levels of certification. It provides airports with a common framework for active carbon management through measurable goals. 

“So far we have only 10 African airports accredited under the ACA programme, with five of those being owned by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA). This accounts for only 31% of passenger traffic on the content,” says Fundi Sithebe, Chief Operating Officer of ACSA.    

"OR Tambo International Airport and Cape Town International Airport have been upgraded to Level 2 (Reduction) status. King Shaka International Airport and Port Elizabeth International Airport have been renewed at Level 1 (Mapping). George Airport has entered the carbon accreditation programme with a grading of Level 1 (Mapping). 

“We still have much to do, but ACSA's commitment is a long-term one that represents an integral element of our corporate strategy."

READ: Flying with babies should not be a crying shame

She adds, “It is our goal for all of our airports to achieve an Airport Carbon Accreditation rating as we strive to reduce the impact of our operations on the environment.

“Having successfully achieved accreditation levels for five airports, we are now working on accreditation for our four other airports. In addition, we will continue the drive for airports to achieve higher levels of carbon accreditation." 

Reuters reports that the use of sustainable-fuel would make the biggest difference, however, the problem is that it is in short supply. That is why the industry is committing to carbon-offset programmes. For example, an airline offers that part of your ticket price will be paid out to an initiative that benefits the environment. 

The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa) and South African Tourism (SA Tourism) launched a world first earlier this year with its Spekboom Initiative, a carbon offsetting initiative, which includes carbon-sucking spekboom plants to combat 'flight shame'. 

Spekboom is a carbon sponge, which has been said to be more effective at removing CO2 than the rainforest. 

“South Africa is the first country in the world to directly address the impact on our environment of flights in and out of our country in the context of flight shaming. There is no limit! You can partner with us to offset all your carbon emissions. If a company wants 500 000 plants, the Spekboom initiative will commit to finding a solution for this to happen,” SATSA Eastern Cape Deputy Chair and Owner of Wild Lubanzi Backpackers, Aidan Lawrence, told delegates at SATSA’s 2019 conference. 

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