Sustainability report from Cathay Pacific shows small CO2 efficiency gains on rising traffic volumes in 2010
Wed 8 June 2011 – The latest environmental reporting statistics from the Cathay Pacific Group, which includes Dragonair, show carbon emissions from the two airlines’ flight operations rose from around 13.85 million tonnes in 2009 to 15.17 million tonnes last year, a 9.5% increase. However, this was on the back of a 15.5% increase in revenue traffic though overall fuel efficiency gains were slight. Improvements are expected from the replacement of ageing Boeing 747s with 777s and other measures. The airline group has also announced an extension of its ‘FLY greener’ carbon offset programme to include hotels belonging to the parent Swire Group and has also launched the Cathay Pacific Green Explorer 2011 programme to enable students from around the world to learn about environmental conservation in Hong Kong and mainland China.
“One of the most challenging sustainability issues we face today is mitigating the impact of climate change,” writes Cathay Pacific Chairman Christopher Pratt in the introduction to the group’s Sustainable Development Report. “We recognise that carbon emissions growth cannot be left unchecked. Thus, a significant part of our strategy is focused on reducing fuel consumption and emissions through modern technology, enhanced operational procedures, appropriate economic measures and improved infrastructure.”
Apart from new aircraft additions, some of the initiatives Cathay Pacific and Dragonair have made to improve fuel efficiency include the modification of engines on the A330 fleet (savings of 11,000 tCO2 per year), using real-time wind data to generate flexible flight tracks for flight planning (607 tCO2 on monitored flights in 2010), engine washings (18,500 tCO2 in 2010), developing new arrival flight tracks (54,000 tCO2) and route improvements over the North Pacific and Europe.
For the third year running, the report has achieved an A+ rating – the highest possible – in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines, an externally verified and internationally accepted benchmark for reporting on economic, environmental and social impacts.
“At Cathay Pacific we have taken steps to lead on many sustainability challenges, our involvement in the Aviation Global Deal on environmental targets being a key example of this,” says John Slosar, Cathay Pacific’s new Chief Executive. “Leading in this way will help to deliver success for our business and all its stakeholders. My Sustainable Development Steering Committee understands the important role it plays as it works carefully and seriously on the priority areas for action.”
Marco Polo Club members travelling on a Cathay Pacific or Dragonair flight and staying at a Swire Hotels property will now be able to offset the carbon emissions from their inbound journey, applying initially to The Opposite House in Beijing and The Upper House in Hong Kong.
“We recognise the vital contribution made by our loyal customers in supporting not only our business, but also our ongoing sustainability efforts,” commented Cathay Pacific’s Head of Environmental Affairs, Mark Watson. “This new initiative makes it easier than ever for members of the Marco Polo Club to offset their emissions from their trips and to help reduce their personal carbon footprints.”
The two airlines were the first Asian carriers to introduce a carbon offset programme and since its commencement in 2007, 80,000 tonnes of CO2 offsets have been purchased, with the proceeds used to support environmental projects in China.
The sustainability report, however, reveals that take-up of carbon offsets remains disappointingly low although it says it is growing and in line with comparable programmes elsewhere. In total, offsets amounting to 3,100 tonnes of CO2 were purchased by passengers and corporate customers in 2010, an increase of 6% from 2009. By contrast, offsets from staff travel amounted to 12,000 tCO2.
“In 2010, we continued educating staff, making it easier for passengers to buy the offsets, and promoting the programme through inflight communications,” says the report.
Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific has announced that it will sponsor 40 students from 10 nominated countries around the world to take part in a Green Explorer programme. The aim is to provide young participants, aged between 16 and 18, a better understanding of environmental issues and the importance of conservation. The eight-day programme in August will take place in Hong Kong and Sichuan Province in China.
Applicants are required to submit online (by June 17) an essay on an environmental topic that is close to their hearts and relevant to his or her home country or the global situation. Successful applicants will visit a green project run by the Hong Kong SAR government before travelling to Yingjing County in Sichuan Province, home to some of the last remaining Giant Panda populations in the wild, diverse ethnic communities and upstream watersheds that feed some of China’s major rivers. Other activities include classroom sessions and field visits to rare and ancient forests.
Commented John Slosar: “At Cathay Pacific we recognise our responsibility towards the environment and are aware that the future of the planet depends on the young people who will be tomorrow’s decision makers. We hope our new programme will put them on the path to a greener future.”