An airplanes smoke tail can be poetic... and controversial. The carbon dioxide pollution caused by flights has led to a totally unexpected decision from a court in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo. Gol, a Brazilian airline, will be required to reforest an area around the Sao Paulo airport in Guarulhos, the largest airport in all of Latin America.
Everything started with a civil action suit brought by the municipal government of Guarulhos, a city of over 1 million located 22 kilometers from Sao Paulo. The suit targeted 42 different airlines both Brazilian and international carriers that operate at the airport. Their efforts rebuffed by a lower court, the plaintiffs next brought the suit to the Environmental Court of the State of Sao Paulo, which reversed the lower courts decision with respect to Gol.
The municipal government says it tried to negotiate with the companies before bringing the suit, and offered them several options: finance a municipal investment fund to invest in clean technology, restore environmentally damaged areas of the city, or establish public forests. But the companies balked, rejecting all three choices and refusing to sign any agreement.
A victory for the government in Guarulhos, the ruling is nevertheless largely symbolic at least in terms of its overall effect on carbon dioxide pollution. A trip from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro and back emits 34.5 tons of carbon dioxide. That translates to roughly 14.4 million tons that the planes using the Guarulhos airport emit annually. To compensate, Gol would have to plant a forest that is approximately 55 times larger than all of Guarulhos.
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