5 Reasons to use Forest Carbon Offsets to Balance your Flight Emissions

Traditionally the aviation industry is not renowned as a leader in environmental sustainability.  However, in October 2016 the industry trade body, The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), agreed to look at their members’ environmental impact and address climate change by cutting their carbon emissions.  The agreement relies heavily on offsetting the emissions generated by an aircraft through projects that absorb carbon such as forestry projects. The downside to the agreement is that it will only come into effect in 2020 and will be voluntary.  So what can you do to minimise the impact of your flights on the environment in the meantime? We recommend voluntarily offsetting your travel emissions.

Here are five good reasons to balance your flight emissions

  1. Solar powered commercial airliners? Not until 2050

The focus of attention throughout the meetings, sessions and debates was the international aviation industry, and the challenge is has to manage its carbon impacts. The industry knows very well the impact it is having, and during the meetings we heard how companies are taking measures to reduce emissions through the use of new engines, the implementation of better booking systems and the use of streamlined flight scheduling.

But as Airbus recently announced, they only plan to develop a CO2-free hybrid-electric passenger aircraft by 2050, meaning that emissions from air travel will still be with us for over 30 years. This leaves offsetting as the only way to balance them out – a position advocated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation themselves.

2. You can make a difference.

While the airlines themselves are making the right noises around offsetting to balance emissions, the choice to fly is very often a personal one. The recently agreed Global Goals call on everyone to take action to achieve truly sustainable and equitable development, from all parts of the world and at all levels of participation, from national governments to individuals.

International flights are taken by individuals, their emissions are easily quantifiable and therefore it is simple to balance out their carbon impacts. In the case of air travel, you really can make a difference.

3. Global impact, global resource

The emissions from air travel really do have an impact around the globe. While some of the pollution from ground transportation literally hangs around, airliners cross the skies and span continents, spreading their emissions far and wide. To balance these emissions it seems appropriate to use an equally global resource, one that is the best carbon capture and storage mechanism we have available to us – existing, natural forest ecosystems.

As a recent Huffington Post article tells us, paying communities to not cut down trees is fast becoming a genuinely powerful tool in the fight against deforestation and climate change, and purchasing forest carbon offsets directly finances these projects.

4. Tourism brings economic benefits

A good reason to continue flying is that travel, be it leisure or business, to other countries boosts economic growth and brings benefits to local communities – this is especially the case in regard to tourism visits to the developing world where foreign exchange is critical to the economy.

Tanzania earns over 20% of its annual foreign exchange income from tourism, and the vast majority of this is derived from international arrivals for wildlife and other holidays.

5. Making forest protection pay

Like many tropical countries, Tanzania has large and wildlife-rich forest resources that need protecting – resources that are currently under threat from deforestation and degradation.

Forest carbon offsets offer a way for finance to flow to local communities who live in and around these forests, giving them a reason to protect the forest as they benefit from offset payments that can be put towards basic services such as medical care and children’s education.

Internationally certified forest carbon offset projects like Carbon Tanzania’s flagship REDD+ Project in the Yaeda Valley offer a way for funds from offset purchases to flow to communities while supporting sustainable economic development. Contact us for further information.

Written by Carbon Tanzania’s founder Jo Anderson