The role of air travel

Measuring, reducing, offsetting


Today aviation is accountable for around 2.5% of global carbon emissions.

As we await the technology that will help commercially decarbonise aviation, we believe it incumbent on the travel industry to do everything it can do to reduce its carbon footprint.

This is as true of Journeys by Design as it is anyone else. We design journeys to international destinations, which means international flights and (when accessing highly remote areas) the chartering of light aircraft and helicopters. The endgame for us is to become a net positive business. As we work towards this aim, we mitigate the impact of our use of aircraft in several ways:

1. International flights account for the bulk of a trip’s emissions. We currently design just 100 trips a year. By 2025, we hope to design just 50 trips a year.

2. We make a judgement call on the net positive impact the use of an in-country plane or helicopter will have on the long-term sustainable development of the destination. In other words, when designing a trip we weigh up the negative climate impact against the positive local impact.

3. Offsetting should be the last resort when mitigating carbon emissions. However, it is a step in the right direction. We have designed our own Safari Carbon Calculator to help us assess the impact of our operations, manage it and then (while the technology is not available to eliminate it) offset the emissions.

4. We are careful about how we offset, using REDD+ – Reduced Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation. This UN mechanism is an approach whereby investing in projects that stop deforestation and thus keep emissions that would have been released results in offsets that can be purchased.

As well as providing climate benefits, REDD+ projects support biodiversity and community development projects. We work with Carbon Tanzania, and in particular their Ntakata Mountains project in Western Tanzania. Key benefits include:

  • Protecting 216,000 hectares of forest, preventing the cutting down of 1,250,000 trees per year.
  • Disbursed financial packets so far worth USD 741,400.
  • Protection of 38 large mammal species, including the endangered eastern chimpanzee, African elephant, and western red colobus; 261 bird species; and 119 tree species.
  • Project activities, including: training and employment, environmental education, land use planning, and participatory forest management.

5. We are signed up to Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency  as part of our five-year plan to better articulate the net positive impact we have and are also in the process of signing up to the Glasgow Declaration – Climate Action in Tourism, which came out of COP26 to focus the tourism sector on reaching net zero.

6. We positively encourage travellers to ‘safari’ in their own backyards, and in 2021 set up our first non-Africa operations Go Local to facilitate exactly this.

In general, we only suggest the use of in-country air travel as a means of accessing our more frontier destinations. The benefits of such travel to the local economy and conservation through tourism in Africa have been highlighted during the Covid era, with many organisations that would normally generate operational revenue from tourism to support conservation activities having seen their budget slashed, crippling them operationally and jeopardising the conservation and indeed local environmental gains achieved over the past decade or so.

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