A return flight from Melbourne to London creates a warming effect equivalent to 16.8 tonnes of CO2 per passenger.
For a passenger taking a return flight between Sydney and Singapore that figure is 6.2 tonnes.
Anyone taking a long-haul flight from Australia to Europe would therefore account for a significant share of the average Australian's contribution to carbon emissions. For the year to June 2012, that figure was about 24.4 tonnes CO2 equivalent, compared with 19 tonnes per capita for the USA and 10 tonnes across the EU.
Airline industry CO2 emissions presently account for about 5 per cent of the world total of anthropogenic emissions, predicted to rise as ever increasing numbers of travellers take to the skies, despite improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency.
Under the European Union Emissions Trading System, airlines were scheduled to start paying for emissions generated by flights into or out of EU airports this year, however American and Chinese airlines kicked back and the proposal is now in a holding pattern.
In preparation for the imposition of the tax, American and European carriers had imposed a fee on passengers flying to and from Europe. When the tax plan was suspended, the airlines pocketed those fees as a windfall profit, estimated to be worth as much as €872m according to a report by Dutch environmental consultants CE Delft.
According to a Qantas spokesperson, "Negotiations are now underway in the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the UN body responsible for aviation, to try to establish a global system for pricing aviation emissions. Like most airlines, Qantas is represented in those discussions by the International Air Transport Association."
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