Pollution from air freight has increased 25% since 2019

An investigation by has revealed that the increase in air freight that was driven by the pandemic has not been reversed and, as a result, companies such as FedEx, UPS, and Amazon Air have increased their greenhouse gas emissions by 25% since 2019.

The report, titled Air Freight Operators Soar Toward Climate Change: The Shocking COVID Air Freight Surge That Won’t Go Away, also observes that the US – where 75% of the population use the Amazon Prime subscription – is responsible for 40% of global emissions from air freight.

Between them, FedEx and UPS are the largest polluters in the industry, responsible for 24.7% share of its 2023 carbon emissions. Between 2019 and 2023, emissions from UPS’s flights originating in North America grew at rate of 2% a year.

While the two aforementioned companies are the worst polluters, much of their freight is being carried for Amazon, whose own air freight business – Amazon Air – is one of the fastest growing polluters in the industry, having nearly doubled its carbon emissions since 2019.

The popularity of Amazon’s one-day delivery offer means that, all to often, road freight is not viable, despite the fact that air freight produces up to 80 times more carbon.

Dr. Devyani Singh, Investigative Researcher at SRG. said: ‘The expansion of dedicated air freight capacity alongside a nearly full recovery of belly freight cargo indicates the emergence of a new climate and human health threat in the air freight market. Today, air freighters are flying more planes, from more places, more often, leading to their unabated growth. Amazon Air and other air freight carriers must end their reliance on air cargo and shift freight shipments to lower-carbon modes of transport such as marine shipping or rail.’ are calling for the ‘big three’ to be more open in accounting for their greenhouse gas emissions, identifying this as ‘critical to addressing the climate and local air pollution impacts of air freight cargo’.

They also point out that the current lack of transparency is hindering research on the impact of this recent increase in air freight operations. 

Josh Archer, Senior Climate Campaigner at said: ‘There is great potential for air freight cargo industry leaders like FedEx, UPS, and Amazon Air to navigate the sector toward alignment with climate and public health imperatives. By adopting greater transparency on the true costs of air freight shipping, and providing full accounting of their GHG emissions, the ‘Big Three’ can lead the implementation of best practices for long-term sustainable business operations.’

The full report van be downloaded here.


Paul Day
Paul is the editor of Public Sector News.


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