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Heathrow CEO: Flights Aren’t to Blame for Climate Change

Heathrow CEO: Flights Aren’t to Blame for Climate Change

“The enemy is carbon, not aviation. We need to protect the ability to fly in a world without carbon.”

London Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye took a stab at flygskam during an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today earlier this week to discuss the challenges facing British Aviation. According to Holland-Kaye, and the Sustainable Aviation coalition that London Heathrow is a member of, planes aren’t the main cause of carbon emissions.

A Move Toward Carbon Neutrality

Sustainable Aviation–a coalition of UK airlines, airports, manufacturers and air navigation service providers of which London Heathrow Airport is a member–has set, as its goal for the UK aviation industry, zero net carbon by 2050. A significant part of its 30-year plan to reduce carbon emissions from 30 million tons per year to zero, involves new engines, fuels, tree-planting, and cleaner-running engines but NOT a reduction of flights, despite a 70% predicted increase in passengers.

Sustainable Aviation says the UK industry can reduce its emissions of CO2 from 30 million tonnes a year to zero, without restricting growth.

Are Planes the Problem?

While flight shaming may be trending, Sustainable Aviation maintains that other forms of transportation produce more carbon than a flight. They cite, as an example, the International Civil Aviation Organization’s study which found that an economy-class return flight from London to New York emits an estimated 0.67 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. That’s roughly 11% of the average annual emissions from someone living in the UK.


Currently, no airline or airline group in the world sits at the top of the list of the top 100 greenhouse gas emitters responsible for 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions. China Coal, Saudi Aramco, and Gazprom in the first three spots. They produce nearly a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases on their own.
View Comments (7)


  1. KRSW

    February 6, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    …and the impact of cow farts outnumber the transport sector emissions by almost 10:1… Not a real issue here gang.

  2. FEasy

    February 7, 2020 at 8:17 am

    Bollocks. A few business trips to Asia alone are responsible for more CO2 than an entire European family emits in a single year. My travel agent stopped quoting CO2 emissions on the reservations, but 2-3 tonnes per trip is not unusual. It’s crazy – a phone or videocall can do just fine – but everyone’s addicted to flying it seems.

  3. eagle215

    February 7, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    That’s right, People who have ANY or multiple children are to blame

  4. FlyingHighlander

    February 8, 2020 at 5:02 am

    Probably impossible, but I’d love data on % of business trips that could reasonably be converted into phone/video calls. My job 100% requires me to be physically onsite to get the task done, and I think many people forget this.

    I’m definitely conscious of my carbon footprint, and it’s one of the factors in me deciding not to have children. Most carbon reduction measures are trivial compared to the need for population control, but it’s the topic humanity doesnt want to address.

  5. Freebird

    February 8, 2020 at 6:36 am

    Maybe this was mis-quoted but to the best of my knowledge nobody has claimed that flights are the main cause of carbon emissions based on total worldwide emissions.

    However, for frequent long-distance fliers, there is no disputing that they likely make up the main share on one’s personal balance sheet. Was he arguing that?

    The article should have made that clearer.

  6. Danwriter

    February 8, 2020 at 7:51 am

    “…I’d love data on % of business trips that could reasonably be converted into phone/video calls.”

    Thanks to the novel coronavirus, we’re about to find out.

  7. Cupart

    February 10, 2020 at 4:57 am

    My own personal view on this (based on my Scientific background):

    Man made CO2 (and other “green”house gasses) are nothing compared to what our Planet produces on its own, which has been clearly proven through studying the Geological strata.

    There are many factors that play in (from Milankovitch Cycles to Cyclical Sunspots, Volcanic activity to plate movement resulting in current changes etc etc) so a few flights have no impact.

    The problem is all the hot air being let out by loud mouthed Social Media morons who have no insight into the facts and politicians use this for getting votes by creating fear among the uneducated masses… Sad that it has come to this…

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