The data chart of the week comes from Eurocontrol.
They calculated that half of CO2 emissions in 2020 came from just 6% of flights: the long-haul ones.
How come? Longer distances naturally mean longer duration flights, and mostly by larger aircraft.
What the chart also shows is that flights shorter than 500km (30.6% of all departures in 2020) only generated 4.3% of emissions last year.
An interesting data point, keeping in mind that domestic flights are usually considered as the scapegoats for the climate crisis.
So long-haul flights are bad and short-haul flights are not?
Well, the Eurocontrol chart is slightly misleading because the standard definition of short vs. medium vs. long-haul flights is different than the chart suggests.
Short-haul flights are usually defined as flights up to 1500km. Applying this logic to the chart and the numbers look different.
As you can see, short-haul flights now make up a quarter of total emissions, not 4%.
And even with this modification, we can’t really treat short and long-haul flights the same.
- For most long-haul flights, there is little to no alternative for passengers and urgent cargo while many short-haul flights could be avoided by using the train.
- Furthermore, for a cleaner apple-to-apple comparison, we should consider CO2 emissions per capita and kilometer. In this case, the impact of short-haul flights would become a lot worse.
Speaking of a more comparable benchmarking approach, we are currently putting a big research piece together.
Think of it as an extension of our 2019 infographic where my colleague Kolin compared the carbon emission output per kilometer for all major transport modes.