G20 Summit: these leaders have the largest carbon footprint

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  • Analysis from travel platform fromAtoB compared international flights taken by G20 heads of state
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe notched up the most CO2 emissions with his international flights
  • Trump took fewer international trips than other heads of state, but those flights he did take were long-haul and used up considerable resources

It was one of the key topics for discussion at the G20 Summit last weekend, as major world powers ramp up their efforts to tackle climate change. But are world leaders being conscientious about their own travel?

Travel portal fromAtoB (www.fromatob.com) wanted some answers, so they conducted research into all the flights taken by various G20 leaders in 2018, to see who had the biggest carbon footprint.

While China as a whole accounts for the largest portion of CO2 emissions, with the amount rising sharply since 2000, president Xi Jinping was not the worst offender when it came to his own personal travel.

Japan’s prime minister Shinzō Abe was responsible for the highest emissions of any G20 leader, with his flights to and from the island nation covering the biggest distance and burning the most fuel. He took a total of 38 flights in his Boeing 747-400 in 2018, travelling 128,000 miles (207,000 km) and emitting nearly 14,500 tonnes of CO2 gas.

President Donald Trump came in second place, flying across 81,400 miles (131,000 km) and emitting nearly 11,550 tonnes of CO2 gas. President Trump made 16 international visits by plane in 2018, the longest being his trip to Singapore for the North Korea-United States Summit in June.

Angela Merkel took a whopping 83 flights, but the majority of these were short-haul flights to European destinations. French president Emmanuel Macron meanwhile took 77 flights in 2018, while Theresa May took 51 flights, ten of which were to and from Brussels.

For European leaders, the biggest trip of the year was to the G20 Summit 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which took place from 30th November to 1st December. As part of ongoing Brexit negotiations, Theresa May took a string of flights to Brussels – in February, June, July, October and December.

But the number of flights taken and miles crossed doesn’t tell the full story. The type of aircraft also had a significant impact on carbon emissions. When all factors were taken into account, Trump’s Boeing 747-200B emitted the most CO2 gas- 0.09 tonnes per square km.

The full original research results can be viewed here.

Methodology: The analysis took all state travel across national borders into account. Domestic flights were not included in the research. CO2 emissions are based on the average values for the individual types of aircraft identified by ICAO.

As Australia, Mexico, Indonesia and Switzerland refused to provide travel information, we only looked at the countries shown in the table below.

The King and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia did not undertake any state travel abroad between October 2017 and February 2019.

Leader
(country)
Plane
(model)
CO2 emissions
(tonnes)
Total distance
travelled (miles)
Total distance
travelled (km)
CO2 emissions
(kg per km)
Shinzō Abe
(Japan)
Boeing 747-400 14.442.1 128,388 206,620 70
Donald Trump
(USA)
Boeing 747-200B 11.487.3 81,392 130,988 88
Moon Jae-in
(South Korea)
Boeing 747 11.461.1 101,887 163,972 70
Xi Jinping
(China)
Boeing 747-400 8280.3 73,611 118,465 70
Emmanuel Macron
(France)
Airbus A330-200 7645.0 127,708 205,526 37
Wladimir Putin
(Russia)
Iljuschin II-96-300PU 7615.7 84,112 135,365 56
Narendra Modi
(India)
Boeing 777-300 7477.3 91,546 147,329 51
Angela Merkel
(Germany)
Airbus A340-300 7325.1 106,402 171,238 42
Giuseppe Conte
(Italy)
Airbus A340-500 6394.0 72,014 115,896 55
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
(Turkey)
Airbus A340 5087.7 76,711 123,454 41
Justin Trudeau
(Canada)
Boeing 737-800 3308.7 103,990 167,355 20
Theresa May
(UK)
British Aerospace BAe 146 2277.6 70,580 113,587 20
Michel Temer
(Brazil)
Airbus A319 1662.7 54,256 87,316 19
Mark Rutte
(Netherlands)
Fokker 70 1080.8 37,853 60,918 18
Mariano Rajoy /
Pedro Sanchéz
(Spain)
Falcon 900 985.3 109,278 175,855 5
Total 96530.6 1,319,727 2,123,895

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