Virgin Australia extends its passenger carbon offset scheme to include Tasmanian nature conservation project
TLC’s Jane Hutchinson at the Pynegana Rainforest Reserve, part of the New Leaf portfolio (photo: Matthew Newton)
Fri 4 July 2014 – Virgin Australia has extended its ‘Fly Carbon Neutral’ voluntary carbon offset programme through a new partnership with the Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC). Passengers can now choose to neutralise the emissions on their domestic and international flights through a nature conservation reserve in Tasmania or existing renewable energy projects in Thailand and Cambodia. TLC is a science-based environmental NGO that actively manages over 30,000 hectares of land for nature conservation, providing a safe haven for rare and threatened species of Tasmania’s unique plants and animals. The credits purchased from TLC are Verified Carbon Units (VCUs) produced and verified through the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). The VCUs are generated from 12,000 hectares of native Tasmanian forest that was previously logged by a timber company.
“As a proud Australian airline, we are passionate about protecting our unique and diverse environments, and we are committed to minimising the impact of our operations on the community,” said Geraldine Chin Moody, Virgin Australia, Group Executive of People, Culture and Sustainability. “We were the first airline in the world to launch a government certified carbon offset programme in 2007, and we are very pleased to be expanding it, offering our customers another simple way to support the environment each time they fly.”
In June 2010, TLC purchased 28,000 hectares of temperate forests, wetlands and marshes from the timber company and subsequently implemented the New Leaf Carbon Project over the logged forest. The area not covered by the Project is managed purely for conservation under legal protection.
The Project reduces emissions by adopting VM0010 methodology, which quantifies the greenhouse gas removals generated from preventing forest logging that would have been logged in the absence of carbon finance. This methodology is applicable where the baseline scenario includes planned timber harvest, and under the project scenario, forest use is limited to activities that do not result in commercial timber harvest or forest degradation.
The TLC credits are also verified under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance standards and are recognised at the highest Gold Level, meaning that benefits flow to the community as well as wildlife, plants and their habitat. Continuous monitoring of the animals, plants and carbon are reported every five years.
“The Tasmanian Land Conservancy is thrilled to be partnering with innovative and leading organisations such as Virgin Australia to conserve Australia’s natural environment,” said TLC CEO Jane Hutchinson. “We are also very excited to share with Virgin Australia customers the direct contribution their offsets make to protect Tasmania’s threatened species and ecosystems.”
The airline’s carbon offset scheme complies with Australia’s National Carbon Offset Standard and is audited annually by the government.
Large areas of Tasmanian forests have been granted world heritage protection by UNESCO although the Australian government has recently attempted to have 74,000 hectares of forest reopened for logging. The request was rejected last month by the UN agency’s World Heritage Committee.
It is becoming increasingly likely the coalition government will repeal carbon tax legislation passed by the previous government. The tax has applied to fuel used on domestic flights in the country since 2012 and a proportion is passed on in surcharges to passengers.
However, Virgin Australia’s website stresses the carbon price applied to tickets does not result in neutralising passengers’ emissions and carbon offset contributions are not used to reduce the airline’s liability under the government’s carbon price mechanism.
A spokesperson for Virgin Australia told GreenAir the carbon tax had had “a major impact on our financial performance for the 2013 financial year.”
She added: “At this stage it is too early to comment on the impact of any potential changes to the carbon tax, as we don’t have enough detail yet. As we have previously stated, we are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and one of the biggest ways we can contribute in this regard is by maintaining a young and fuel-efficient fleet of aircraft.”