CNN writer suggests forcing “carbon passport” on travelers to meet carbon footprint target by 2050
12/17/2023 // Belle Carter // Views

Mainstream news outlet's writer Ross Bennett-Cook pointed out in an article that tourism's negative impacts on the environment have become so severe that some are suggesting drastic changes to travel habits, citing a 2023 report that analyzed the future of sustainable travel, where the adventure travel company Intrepid Trave proposed the use of "carbon passports."

According to Bennett-Cook, whose article on CNN had a disclaimer saying his views are solely those of the writer, the idea of a carbon passport centers on each traveler being assigned a yearly carbon allowance that they cannot exceed. They found this significant as international tourist arrivals globally reached 84 percent of pre-pandemic levels. In some European countries, such as France, Denmark and Ireland, tourism demand even surpassed its pre-pandemic level. According to a report from the World Travel and Tourism Council, their sector generates around one-tenth of the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving the climate crisis.

"These allowances can then 'ration' travel. The average annual carbon footprint for a person in the U.S. is 16 tons, which is one of the highest rates in the world. In the U.K. this figure sits at 11.7 tons, still more than five times the figure recommended by the Paris Agreement" he wrote of the legally binding treaty that aims to keep a global temperature rise this century well below two C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 C. The average worldwide annual carbon footprint of a person is closer to four tons. But, to have the best chance of preventing temperature rise from overshooting two Celsius, the average global carbon footprint needs to drop to under two tons by 2050.

The tour operator's report also predicted the full roll-out of carbon passports, which should start by 2040, and for emission reductions to have any meaningful effect, ticket prices would have to rise by 1.4 percent each year. As rising prices continue to hunt Americans, this should discourage holidaymakers from flying. (Related: People may need CARBON PASSPORTS for international travel in a dystopian future ruled by CLIMATE TYRANTS.)

In line with this drive, European countries have started reducing air travel. As of April 1, passengers on short-haul flights and older aircraft in Belgium have been subject to increased taxes to encourage alternative forms of travel. After two months, France banned short-haul domestic flights where the same trip can be made by train in two-and-a-half hours or less. Spain is expected to follow suit.  Meanwhile in Germany, a similar scheme is being looked into also. In fact, a 2021 YouGov poll found that 70 percent of Germans are in favor of such measures to fight climate change if alternative transport routes like trains or ships were available.

Meanwhile, an investigation by the European Federation for Transport and Environment this year also found that cruise ships pump four times as many sulfuric gases, which they say cause acid rain and several respiratory conditions, into the atmosphere than all of Europe's 291 million cars combined.

It would be challenging to implement "carbon passports," experts admit

Experts agreed making the "carbon passport" concept a reality posed challenges. To work, legislation and technological innovations are needed, Matt Berna, the president of Intrepid in the Americas and Alex Hawkins, the strategic-foresight editor at the Future Laboratory who spearheaded the report, admitted.

“For it to work internationally, it would require collaboration from a lot of different stakeholders. If we were to put certain limits on our carbon emissions, that would have different ramifications for all of us," Hawkins said. Zapata also acknowledged the restriction could be alienating and ineffective.

"The idea is good in theory, but in terms of logistics, I don't see how it could come together," Anna Abelson, an adjunct professor of the Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality at New York University, told Business Insider.

Berna said that another issue is that not all emissions from traveling come from transportation. "The next piece we have to solve is how we travel when we get to the location, how we're spending your money, and where you're staying," he said. Berna and Zapata also targeted other "traveling itineraries" such as eating locally sourced food, staying in sustainable accommodations that use renewable energy, and opting for fewer, longer trips over several shorter ones, further making traveling more expensive.

They also suggested tracking one's flight's carbon emissions by booking through Google Flights, which has included emissions levels since 2021. The site says its carbon emissions are based on the European Environment Agency's estimates. Another useful tool they endorsed was Native, an online emissions calculator where a traveler can plug in travel plans and get an estimate of one’s trip's carbon footprint.

Head over for stories related to governments' constant push to reduce carbon emissions and shift to "green" living.

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