More people willing to fly less to reduce climate impact: Survey

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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More than two-fifths of the global population would be willing to fly less even after pandemic restrictions ease, according to a survey that shows a growing awareness that individual actions impact the climate.

The poll of more than 30,000 people published by the European Investment Bank shows 72 percent of Europeans and Americans and 84 percent of Chinese people think their own behavior can make a difference in tackling climate change, up by between 7 and 12 percentage points since last year.

Easier option 

People now think giving up flying would be one of the easiest things they could do to cut their carbon footprint and respondents were far more reluctant to stop video streaming, buying new clothes or eating meat.

When COVID-19-related restrictions are lifted, 43 percent of Europeans, 40 percent of Americans and 65 percent of Chinese people said they will try to avoid air travel, according to the survey, which was conducted in October. Many of those cited climate change as the main reason.

Even though passenger numbers plummeted last year due to the pandemic, aviation is forecast to account for a rising share of carbon pollution in coming decades. The industry spewed out more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2019, according to data and airlines have had limited success so far in cutting emissions.

“The post-COVID-19 period will provide an opportunity to take a quantum leap in the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy,” said analysts.

Unwilling to give up cars

Yet the survey also found that people are far less willing to give up owning a car, which could have a bigger climate impact. Aviation still only accounts for 2.5 percent of global emissions, while road transport is responsible for about 15 percent.

Among a list of actions to fight climate change, 39 percent of Europeans and 38 percent of Americans said forgoing car ownership would be the hardest for them to get used to. This strengthens the need for automakers to switch to electric vehicles and hydrogen in order to cut their environmental impact.

Unsurprisingly, a high proportion of people around the globe said they are less likely to use public transport in order to avoid catching COVID-19. Travel alternatives have soared, with 89 percent of Chinese respondents, 73 percent of Europeans and 69 percent of Americans saying they are cycling and walking more.