May 18, 2024

UK is worst in Europe for aviation CO2 emissions

The United Kingdom was the biggest contributor in Europe to aviation-related CO2 emissions in 2023, followed by Germany, Spain, Russia and France. 

These countries represent a significant portion of the total CO2 emissions generated by tourism, according to incoming flight data to these countries, regardless of their origin. 

At the bottom end of the top 10 European countries by CO2 volume generated are Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal and Greece. 

The data from Mabrian is part of a new study on the impact of aviation on the carbon footprint and tourism sustainability of European destinations in 2023, after participating in a session organised by the UN Tourism and the European Travel Commission (ETC) on measuring the carbon footprint of the tourism sector.    

In 2023, the UK led the ranking with 31.4 million tons of CO2 generated, representing 18% of the total emissions. Germany and Spain followed with 20 million tons each, both accounting for 12% of the share in total emissions in Europe. 

Russia and France ranked fourth and fifth, contributing 18 million tons each, equivalent to 10% each. Italy ranked sixth with 13 million tons (7%), followed by the Netherlands with nine million tons (5%). 

Switzerland and Portugal shared the eighth and ninth positions, generating six and five million tons respectively, each representing 3%. Greece closed the list with four million tons, contributing 2% of the total CO2 emissions. 

Emissions generated increased by 16% overall compared to 2022. The UK saw an increase of 24.20%, followed by Italy with an increase of 22.69%, and France with an increase of 15.93%. 

In 2023, the aviation sector generated approximately 172 million tons of CO2 in Europe, equivalent to 4% of the total CO2 generated on the continent, according to the European Union’s estimates.

To offset this carbon footprint, an estimated seven billion trees per year are needed, which represents 11% of the total forest mass in Europe, according to the European Union’s estimates and the Encon consultancy report. 

Carlos Cendra, Partner and Director of Marketing and Communication at Mabrian, said: “This analysis does not intend to point fingers at the aviation industry, which is essential for the tourism sector and is making significant strides in decarbonisation, but rather aims to raise awareness among tourist destinations of the need to measure the impact their visitors have on the environment, in order to act accordingly, take compensatory measures, and advance towards the Net Zero or climate neutrality goal set for 2050. 

“Undoubtedly, measurement is the key to being able to take action and achieve the set objectives. On the other hand, we propose using cross-indicators, such as the relationship between carbon footprint and visitor-generated income in the destination’s local economy, which allow for better measurement of the impact from a balanced perspective.”