Ironically, our journeys to visit the reefs we love so much are directly contributing to their demise. What to do?

As we know, aeroplanes are not, as yet, solar powered, and jet fuel is not exactly eco-friendly. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that for every kilogram of jet fuel used on a flight, approximately 3.15 kilos of carbon dioxide, CO2 is released into the atmosphere. CO2 is one of the biggest threats to our planet’s reefs, causing ocean acidification and rising water temperatures. Both are killing corals, resulting in mass bleaching events, and creating an environment with a pH that makes it very difficult (and, if it continues to rise at these levels, will eventually make it impossible) for corals to grow their reef-building skeletons. But this information is pretty abstract. How does it relate to our dive holidays?

Remember that the figures shown only correspond to one person – you. Look around the plane: Every single person on it is also responsible for the same amount of CO2, and this is only one flight of thousands. To give you an idea, in 2014 there were 864,681 Singaporean visitors to Thailand, which, alone, added around 140 million kilos of CO2 to the atmosphere, or the same amount as burning over 67.4 million kilograms of coal. As you can see, the cost of our air travel soon adds up.

Qantas

  • Operates the largest airline voluntary carbon offset programme in the world
  • Qantas’ carbon offsetting projects include the provision of two million new stoves to replace traditional wood-burning stoves in Cambodia, projects protecting Tasmania’s wilderness and the Peruvian Amazon, and initiatives aimed at empowering rainforest communities in Papua New Guinea All employee travel is offset

AIR NIPPON AIRWAYS (ANA)

Offers voluntary carbon offsetting programme. Funds go towards reforestation initiatives in Japan. ANA has been engaged in reforestation efforts since 2004, working with volunteers to plant trees in seven areas around Japan. Their coral restoration project has also seen 1,600 heads of coral being planted in waters around Okinawa

AIR NEW ZEALAND

  • Offers a carbon offsetting scheme
  • The Air New Zealand Environmental Trust supports Nature conservation projects around the country such as the Mangarara project in Hawkes Bay, where over 85,000 trees will be planted in the next three years
  • They have invested NZD4 billion in designing new aircraft, with
    the aim of producing the world’s most fuel-efficient planes in five years

EMIRATES

  • Offers a voluntary carbon offset programme.
  • Emirates invests in two conservation-based tourism projects, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve in the UAE, and the impressive Wolgan Valley Resort in Australia

SINGAPORE AIRLINES

  • Offers a carbon offsetting scheme
  • Singapore Airlines, through Bird Life International, invested USD3 million in the Harapan Rainforest Initiative, which aims to conserve 100 square kilometres of rainforest in Indonesia. The forest is one of the few remaining tracts of lowland rainforest left in the country, and is home to diverse species such as the endangered Sumatran tiger
  • Invests in new and efficient aircraft and fuel-saving flight operations, and is involved with the development of sustainable aviation fuels

ASIANA AIRLINES

  • Passengers can opt to offset their carbon footprint from their flight; funds are given to governmental efforts to offset carbon usage
  • In 1996 Asiana was the first airline to achieve an environmental management certification
  • Serves Rainforest Alliance coffee on-board
  • Offsets corporate flight emissions.

THAI AIRWAYS

  • Offers passengers voluntary carbon offsetting.
  • Thai Airways started the Nong Bua Farm Ratchaburi Biogas Project, which makes use of the methane produced by swine farms to generate power. It provides local employment and a sustainable solution for potentially hazardous by-products

CATHAY PACIFIC

  • Offers a carbon offsetting scheme
  • Cathay Pacific invests in clean energy, through the Guangdong Chaonan Shalong wind project and the Guangdong Lankou hydropower project, which together offset 160,000 tonnes of greenhouse gasses every year. These initiatives also employ local manpower, contributing to the
    local economy

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
But how many of us have world-class reefs on our doorsteps? And we’re not going to stop diving, right? Well, the good news is that you can mitigate some of the impact of your dive travel.

Choosing the right airline, and spending a minute and a few dollars contributing to a carbon-offsetting scheme means that your journey could end up being completely carbon neutral.

MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE
Carbon offsetting projects usually involve regenerating ecosystems (forests, mangroves, coral reefs, etc.) that can sequester carbon dioxide, and the cost of offsetting your carbon footprint is determined by the distance to your destination – the more carbon released, the more trees or mangroves will need to be planted to soak it all up.

A lot of airlines will offer you the chance to offset your carbon footprint, but that’s not all there is to it. Every part of the aviation industry’s infrastructure is responsible for releasing CO2 into the air, from the food you eat on the plane, to the company’s HQ. Many airlines have in-house carbon offsetting initiatives, and some are even going that little bit further.

Some of Asia Pacific’s regional airlines are investing time and resources into trying to reduce the impact of their operations (see above).

Other airlines are also trying to make a difference and “green” their businesses. If the airline you’re flying doesn’t offer carbon offsetting, or you’re booking through a third party that doesn’t give you the option, check out www.climatecare. org and do it yourself! The corals will be grateful.

For the rest of this article and other stories from this issue, see Asian Diver 2017 Issue 1 Volume 144

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