“If air travel is a must, CO2 compensation must be paid.”

A journey by aeroplane is such a costly item in terms of the CO2 holiday accounts that taking the train is always a better option. But what should we do if this is not possible? Pay CO2 compensation is the advice of Christine Plüss, Director of the Working Group on Tourism and Development (Arbeitskreis Tourismus und Entwicklung, AKTE) and of the travel website fairunterwegs.org.

Interview by Yvonne von Hunnius, July 2015

Christiane Püss

Christine Plüss is Director of the NGO Working Group on Tourism and Development (Arbeitskreis Tourismus und Entwicklung, AKTE), which operates the travel website fairunterwegs.org. AKTE operates as a specialist service which provides critical evaluations of tourism from a development policy perspective and provides travellers with information about fair and sustainable tourism

Journeys by air are classified as CO2 sins – but how severe is their impact?

Christine Plüss: Extremely severe. In general, transport accounts for an average of 75 percent of travel-related CO2 emissions. Travel to and from the destination are the biggest contributor here and flying is the least favourable option. We Swiss must face the facts here: we fly twice as often as our neighbours on average. As a result, air travel is responsible for 16 percent of Switzerland’s climate impact. So flying should be avoided whenever possible and people should take the train instead.

So no more holidays in Asia?

Is a question of finding the right balance. We have a three-year plan in mind: anyone planning to take a holiday in Thailand should compensate for the associated CO2 emissions, plan to spend more than one week there and be mindful of sustainable tourism. The following year they should take a holiday that involves overland travel. Greece can easily be reached without flying. The third year, it would be the turn of a destination close to home; for example, packing your rucksack and simply heading off is a hugely inspiring thing to do.

From what distance would flying be acceptable?

We support the rule of thumb that a distance of between 800 and 1000 kilometres can easily be travelled by train. Take Zurich-Berlin, for example, I would always make this journey by train. For destinations further away than 1000 kilometres, it may make sense to fly – as long as you compensate for the CO2 emissions.

Why do you advise using CO2 compensation when it is so strongly criticised as the “sale of indulgences”?

The best thing is to avoid CO2 emissions. If that is not possible, CO2 compensation is always the next best option. It is important to use providers that work transparently and whose climate protection projects fulfil the most stringent international standards in accordance with the CDM Gold Standard. We advise working with the voluntary organisations myclimate, atmosfair and KlimaKollekte.

What is the situation regarding bus travel and cruises, both of which are very fashionable at the moment?

Rail is always preferable to road, however thanks to heavy use and modern engines, bus journeys are a far better option than flights. I am critical of cruises: although some providers try to be environmentally aware, toxic gases are often involved and many wastewater issues have not been clarified. If you travel by ship, you do not travel in an environmentally friendly or sustainable way.

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Last modification 15.09.2015

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