Green Lobbying Group Calls For Curbing Business Travel

business woman in airport
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Transport & Environment (T&E), a lobbying association acting at EU level, is recommending curbing business travel as an effective way to slash aviation’s CO2 emissions this decade. 

The group’s “Roadmap to climate-neutral aviation in Europe,” a revised version of the 2018 edition, was issued March 8 and addresses a number of solutions commercial air transport is considering to become environmentally sustainable.

T&E’s position fuels the debate on the compatibility of three factors in aviation’s future—air traffic growth the industry is expecting and encouraging; technology progress; and sustainability.

Given the proportion corporate travel contributed to 2019 emissions, reducing it to 50% of pre-pandemic levels would cut emissions by 15.7% in 2030. The comparison is made with a baseline scenario that includes efficiency improvements. In T&E’s study, this would be the most effective course of action. An additional powerful tool would be carbon pricing (10.9%).

Capping leisure travel at 2019 levels would cut another add 0.8%. Sustainable aviation fuels are suffering from a slow production ramp-up and are thus seen contributing 4.7%. Technological advancements are considered, too, such as hydrogen and electric. Their impact will remain nonexistent during this decade, however, due to lengthy research and development cycles.

Climate action is an emergency, T&E says, and the group is therefore advocating measures with immediate effect—capping business travel, carbon pricing and stopping airport expansion. The last will at least help avoid making the problem worse, T&E says.

“The possibility for reduced corporate travel stems from what was learned from the pandemic,” T&E explains. “While we missed the connection that aviation brought, we found new ways to work and stay in touch ... Large corporate flyers can confirm, and in fact some already are confirming, that they won’t return to pre-COVID levels of travel ... Governments should respond to such falling demand, not with continued subsidies to prop up a return to pre-COVID demand, but with a downward revision of forecasts for future growth, and recognizing that the sector can and should be smaller.”

In recent years, some other organizations have advised demand-based measures—the kind of action that could once be found only in the speeches of the staunchest ecologists. The International Energy Agency in 2021 published a scenario where three changes lead to a 50% reduction in emissions in 2050, while reducing the number of flights by only 12%. They comprise capping long-haul leisure flights, capping business flights and shifting to high-speed rail.

T&E also supports minimum pricing for tickets. Bertrand Piccard, both an environmentalist and a prominent champion of commercial aviation, concurs with the idea.

Thierry Dubois

Thierry Dubois has specialized in aerospace journalism since 1997. An engineer in fluid dynamics from Toulouse-based Enseeiht, he covers the French commercial aviation, defense and space industries. His expertise extends to all things technology in Europe. Thierry is also the editor-in-chief of Aviation Week’s ShowNews.