Passengers can offset carbon emissions from air travel under new Changi Airport initiative

Nov 15, 2023 | Media Coverage

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SINGAPORE – Changi Airport has rolled out a programme that allows passengers to offset carbon emissions from their air travel journeys, regardless of the airline they fly on.

As part of the Changi Carbon Offsets programme, travellers can calculate their carbon emissions based on flight origin, destination and class of travel on the Changi Airport website or app, before selecting an option to offset their emissions using credit card payment, airport operator Changi Airport Group (CAG) said on Friday.

For example, a traveller making a return economy-class trip between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur can pay $1.11 to offset about 60kg of carbon emissions, based on CAG’s calculator. For travel to and from New York, an economy-class passenger can fork out $48.18 to offset around 3,470kg of emissions.

Airlines and passengers can offset carbon emissions from air travel by funding carbon reduction projects elsewhere.

The programme will channel funds to sustainable development projects that will reduce or prevent emissions in the long run.

In partnership with Carbon Click, a New Zealand-based carbon offset company, CAG selected several carbon offset projects passengers can contribute to.

These comprise a forest conservation project in Indonesia to protect its orang utans, the planting of 120 million native trees in Guizhou, China, and wind power generation in Koppal, India.

This is not the first time such carbon offset initiatives have been adopted by airports.

For example, London Heathrow Airport in Britain and Rotterdam The Hague Airport in the Netherlands have been allowing passengers to offset their flights’ carbon emissions with the purchase of eco-friendly jet fuel since 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Some carriers that operate flights to and from Singapore have also launched carbon offset initiatives, including national carrier Singapore Airlines, which from 2021 has had a carbon offset programme that supports environmental projects such as rainforest preservation and the construction of solar energy projects across India.

Regional carriers like Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways also started offering customers a platform to fund projects that offset the carbon emissions produced by flights – including solar water heaters in India and solar-powered cookers in China – from 2022.

Accounting for 2 per cent of man-made carbon emissions, the global aviation industry has committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

From 2027, under the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, all international flights need to meet the stipulated offsetting requirements, which include a permanent and irreversible reduction of emissions, among others.

Carbon offsetting is one of many avenues the industry is tapping, along with the use of sustainable aviation fuel and carbon-capture technologies.

Only 1 per cent to 3 per cent of airline passengers took up voluntary carbon offsetting as at November 2020, according to figures from Air Transport Action Group.

Associate Professor Johan Sulaeman, director of the Sustainable and Green Finance Institute at the National University of Singapore, said Changi Airport’s initiative was timely, but acknowledged that voluntary carbon offsets should be only a temporary solution for the aviation sector.

While these offsets allow the industry to contribute to global carbon-reduction efforts in the short run, the aviation sector needs to continue innovating technologies to cut greenhouse gas emissions at a faster rate and achieve its net-zero objectives in the long run.

Another concern is whether the offsets are sufficiently credible – accredited through verification certificates, for instance – and substantial in reducing carbon emissions, added Prof Sulaeman.

On passengers’ participation rates, he noted that the younger generations are more sensitive to climate concerns and hence more likely to offset their carbon emissions.

He predicts that the participation rates will increase over time, once passengers learn about the credibility and impact of the various offset programmes on offer.

Prof Sulaeman is of the view that carbon offsets should be made compulsory and included in ticket prices, as this will encourage passengers to better understand the impact of their travel carbon footprints.

“After all, one of the potential tools to reduce emission is to travel more judiciously.”