CLIMATE CRISIS: World leaders have big aviation carbon footprints

US president Donald Trump came in second place, flying 81,400 miles (131,000 km) and emitting nearly 11,550 tonnes of CO2 gas.


As aviation leaders from around the world gather this week in Montreal for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 40th Assembly, an analysis from travel platform fromAtoB compared international flights taken by G20 heads of state to see who had the biggest carbon footprint.

While China as a whole now accounts for the largest portion of CO2 emissions, with the amount rising sharply since 2000, president Xi Jinping was not the worst offender when it came to his own personal travel. Japan’s prime minister, Shinzō Abe, was responsible for the highest emissions of any G20 leader, with his flights to and from Japan covering the biggest distance and burning the most fuel. He took a total of 38 flights in his Boeing 747-400 in 2018, travelling 128,000 miles (207,000 km) and emitting nearly 14,500 tonnes of CO2.

US president Donald Trump came in second place, flying 81,400 miles (131,000 km) and emitting nearly 11,550 tonnes of CO2 gas. President Trump made 16 international visits by plane in 2018, the longest being his trip to Singapore for the North Korea-United States Summit in June.

Among European leaders, Angela Merkel took 83 flights, but the majority of these were short-haul flights to European destinations. French president Emmanuel Macron meanwhile took 77 flights in 2018, while Theresa May took 51 flights.

For European leaders, the biggest trip of the year was to the G20 Summit 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which took place from 30 November to 1 December. As part of ongoing Brexit negotiations, Theresa May took a string of flights to Brussels- in February, June, July, October and December.

But the number of flights taken and miles crossed doesn’t tell the full story. The type of aircraft also had a significant impact on carbon emissions. When all factors were taken into account, Trump’s Boeing 747-200B emitted the most CO2 gas- 0.09 tonnes per square km.

The research results can be viewed here.

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Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.


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