Aviation has been one of the fastest growing emitters of Greenhouse Gasses (GHG) worldwide over the last decade. Even though the travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in an abrupt drop in air mileage in 2020, the international trend over the last years is still very concerning in regards to the environmental impact of flights. In the UK aviation created 39 MtCO2e in 2018 (this is roughly as much as all emissions created by HGVs and vans added up).
Flying is the most carbon intensive way of transportation (see graph on the right below). A short-haul flight (e.g. London to Edinburgh) creates roughly 20% more emissions than driving a regular car and 5 times the emissions of travelling by train.
Choosing not to fly, but an alternative mode of transportation will therefor always save a considerable amount of carbon and be one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
The British are the most active flyers in the world, with every 1 in 12 international passenger being British. However we are a nation where a minority is taking the majority of flights: Only half of adults in the UK have actually taken a flight in the last two years. So it is quite possible not to fly, even if you live in the UK.
Alternative modes of transport
The train is the most environmentally friendly alternative to flying, but might not be an option for people who are concerned about social distancing. Trainline is a good platform to find cheap train fares and connections. The Eurostar is continuing to offer direct connections to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam from London. Train fares can be expensive but booking early, outside the peak season and investing in a railcard can help save money on tickets.
Especially cost effective alternatives to flying are buses, like the National Express services.
The Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority aims to convert all buses in the area to zero emissions vehicles by 2030
For those who do not wish to travel by train, the car can be a less carbon intensive alternative to flying. Especially if the car is driven efficiently (little stop and go traffic, consistent and not too high speeds, fully occupied with passengers) it can save more than 25% of emissions, compared to a flight.
Ferries continue to offer international services to the Netherlands, France, Spain and Ireland. Often train services connect directly into the ferry terminals, but most people choose to take their vehicles with them. You can also take bikes, motor homes or other vehicles onto the ferries. Longer journeys can be made more comfortable by booking cabins on board, which can provide a nice break during a longer journey.
The Eurotunnel provides a quicker way to transport you and your vehicle between Britain and France. The other advantage apart from being faster, is that users don’t have to leave their cars, so it makes it is easier to social distance.
With international travel being restricted by the Covid-19 pandemic, many UK residents turned to UK destinations for their holidays. The divers British countryside has a lot to offer. Amongst others, the National Trust offers holiday cottages within their sites.
Flight Free UK
Flight Free has launched a challenge to go without flying for a whole year. What seems easy for some, can be a real challenge for others. The organisation offers more background information on the issue of flying and support to make the pledge a success.