The contested notion of green aviation
For some time, airlines and airports have been promoting the notion of sustainable aviation or green aviation.
Airlines have been marketing themselves as being green or environmentally sustainable, despite the fact that before COVID-19 their aeroplanes had been spewing a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, in the order of 5-6% of all emissions.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, on average there were 9728 aeroplanes in the sky at any one time, carrying more than 1.2 million passengers (2017 figures).
There is growing criticism of their role in contributing to the climate crisis, particularly from the likes of Kevin Anderson, renowned climate scientist at Britain’s Tyndall Centre, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and the flight shame movement. Given this, the aviation industry is doing the utmost to redeem itself and win back customers it lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns on air travel around the world.
The aviation industry’s latest ploy at greening itself is AVTECH Sweden’s flight path optimisation service, which promises to assist pilots in improving fuel efficiency by avoiding “unfavourable” air currents.
While such strategies may slightly improve fuel efficiency, they do not adequately address the aviation industry’s contribution to the climate crisis, particularly if the industry is ever able to return to “business-as-usual”.