Millions of Norwegians are officially off for Norway’s long five-day Easter holiday weekend that began on Thursday, with more than half of them out travelling within the country or heading abroad. There’s little sign they’re sacrificing holiday travel out of concern for the climate or the carbon emissions that flying and driving can generate.
Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen reported more huge numbers of people passing through last weekend, as many seized the opportunity to get 10 days off in a row for the price of just three vacation days from work (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday). A new survey conducted by research firm Kantar/TNS for the national tourism employers’ organization NHO Reiseliv shows that nearly 20 percent of those out traveling flew to other countries in Europe or beyond.
Others hit the road, loading up the car and driving to mountain cabins for spring skiing, opening up holiday homes along the coast, or visiting family and friends. Fully 78 percent of those reporting that they’d leave home during the Easter holidays planned to travel to another location in Norway.
“The vast majority of Norwegians still view Easter holidays within Norway as their top choice,” Kristin Krohn Devold, a former defense minister who now heads NHO Reiseliv, told news bureau NTB.
‘The new coal’
With 55 percent of those questioned replying that they’d leave home during Easter, the travel bug continues to bite, and that worries climate activists. Oslo newspaper Dagsavisen recently reported how another new study shows that an airline now ranks as one of the 10 largest sources of carbon emissions in Europe.
The dubious distinction went to Ryanair, according to the study conducted by the organization Transport & Environment (T&E). Norway’s chapter of Friends of the Earth, Naturvernforbundet, is among the members of T&E and was sounding alarms before the Easter holidays even began.
“When it comes to the climate, Ryanair is the new coal,” claimed Andrew Murphy, aviation chief at T&E. The organization used EU data showing emissions development for around 14,000 companies in various sectors. The nine biggest generators of carbon emissions were coal-driven power plants, topped by Belchatow of Poland, which released 38 million tons of carbon last year. The 10th spot on the list was Ryanair, whose flights around Europe released 9.9 million tons of CO2 in 2018.
Route expansion to blame
Norway’s two biggest airlines, Norwegian Air and SAS, released far less, at 2.8 million- and 2.5 million tons respectively, “but that’s more than what all the diesel vehicles in Norway released in 2017,” Holger Schlaupitz of Naturvernforbund told Dagsavisen. Norwegian’s carbon emissions growth from 2013 to 2018 hit 51 percent, much higher than SAS’ 6 percent and reflecting Norwegian’s major route expansion. Ryanair’s growth was 49 percent, while carbon emissions for airlines flying within Europe rose 26 percent on average.
While carbons emissions are falling in most other sectors including coal, they’re rising within the aviation sector because of the strong growth in airline traffic. Schlaupitz notes that Norwegians have contributed to that growth with 52 million passengers passing through state airport agency Avinor’s airports last year. That’s more than double the number in 1993.
“It’s clear that it’s too cheap for airline traffic to pollute, and that the prices for jet fuel are relatively low,” Schlaupitz claimed. He has no faith that either more fuel-efficient aircraft, electric aircraft or more use of biofuels will cut emissions from airline traffic, as long as it continues to grow.
Political approval for more airline traffic growth
All indications are that it will. Avinor actively seeks new airline routes from its airports and offers incentives to the airlines to get them. Avinor also remains keen to build a third runway at OSL Gardermoen. A majority in Parliament (formed by the government parties and the Labour Party) voted down a measure proposed by other more-climate-oriented parties in opposition to block it.
The airlines, meanwhile, defend their emissions growth by contending that their aircraft have reduced emissions per passenger-kilometer. Norwegian Air claims its emissions per passenger-kilometer have declined by 30 percent since 2008 because of major investment in new, more emissions-friendly aircraft.
“Last year Norwegian paid more than NOK 1.3 billion in so-called ‘environmental fees’ to the EU’s quota system, CO2 taxes on domestic routes and the airline seat tax in Norway and Sweden,” Norwegian Air spokesman Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen told Dagsavisen. He added that Norwegian Air continues to call for a CO2 fund that could be used to promote environmental goals.