Carbon passports are proposed to limit yearly travel emissions per person, helping control carbon output. This idea mirrors the UK's 2008 "personal carbon trading" concept. However, implementing carbon passports faces challenges, including tracking emissions and needing new laws.

Travel Industry Considers Carbon Passports to Limit Emissions
(Photo : Ross Parmly on Unsplash)

What Are Carbon Passports?

A carbon passport limits yearly travel emissions for each person. It rations travel to control carbon output. The UK Parliament discussed a similar idea in 2008 called "personal carbon trading." 

In the US, the average annual carbon footprint per person is 16 tons, much higher than the global average of 4 tons, according to CNN. This must drop to under two tons by 2050 to combat climate change. Intrepid Travel's report suggests carbon passports could be used by 2040, as travel habits are already changing due to recent laws.

MSN reported that Paloma Zapata, CEO of Sustainable Travel International, stresses the urgent need for reduced carbon emissions in travel. As Alex Hawkins of The Future Laboratory explained, the concept of carbon passports involves personal carbon allowances, specifically targeting travel-related emissions. This concept echoes a 2008 UK Parliament report on "Personal Carbon Trading."

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However, implementing carbon passports poses challenges. Hawkins and Matt Berna of Intrepid acknowledge that this is not an immediate solution but a wake-up call for more sustainable practices. Experts like Anna Abelson from New York University see logistical hurdles in tracking emissions. The proposal suggests a need for new laws and technological innovations.

Alternatives include using sustainable aviation fuels and regulating the aviation industry's emissions. Hawkins also suggests promoting eco-friendly transportation. Despite these challenges, carbon passports remain a thought-provoking solution to the tourism sector's growing climate impact.

Carbon Passports: Addressing Rising Air Travel Emissions

Between 2013 and 2018, CO₂ emissions from commercial aircraft worldwide rose by 32%. Although fuel efficiency improvements reduce emissions per passenger, growing air traffic offsets these gains. Studies show that to meaningfully lower emissions, airfare must increase by 1.4% annually, discouraging air travel. However, ticket prices have been dropping, not rising.

As per Inside Hook, several European countries are acting to cut down air travel. Since April 1, 2023, Belgium has imposed higher taxes on short flights and older planes. France has banned short domestic flights that can be replaced by a train journey of two and a half hours or less. Spain is expected to follow similar measures, and a 2021 YouGov poll indicated that 70% of Germans would back such steps, provided there are alternate transport options like trains or ships.

Cruise ships are also under scrutiny for their environmental impact. A 2023 European Federation for Transport and Environment study revealed that cruise ships emit four times more sulphuric gases than all of Europe's cars. This has led to actions against the cruise industry in European cities. Amsterdam, for example, has prohibited cruise ships from docking in the city center to reduce pollution and tourism impacts. After Venice banned large cruise ships from entering its waters, air pollutants from ships in the city dropped by 80%.

These developments point to a growing need for solutions like carbon passports, which could regulate individual carbon footprints from travel. As air and cruise travel contribute significantly to global emissions, carbon passports could become crucial in addressing climate change.

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