SAS, Finnair and China Airlines launch passenger carbon offsetting initiatives
Fri 8 Feb 2019 – Three airlines – SAS, Finnair and China Airlines – have each introduced carbon offsetting initiatives for their customers. Starting this month, SAS Group will offset the carbon emissions of all tickets booked through its EuroBonus loyalty programme, which has 5.6 million members. The airline estimates that around 40% of passenger-related carbon emissions will be offset as a result and says it will be introducing this year the opportunity for customers to reduce their carbon footprint through choosing a biofuel upgrade option when purchasing tickets. Last month, Finnair introduced a service for customers to offset or reduce the CO2 of their flights by supporting an emissions reduction project or through buying biofuel. Taiwan-based China Airlines has partnered with ClimateCare to offer a carbon calculator on its booking website and enable customers to offset their carbon footprint.
Since April 2018, SAS has compensated CO2 emissions for customers booking youth tickets, which are available to travellers aged between 12 and 26. The airline estimated around SEK 15 million ($1.7m) would be raised as a result for renewable energy projects supported by its offset partner Natural Capital Partners. It already offsets business travel within the company.
“Our most loyal customers and frequent flyers share our wish for more sustainable travel,” said SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson. “Our customers who fly to, from and within Scandinavia should be aware that SAS strives to reduce our carbon footprint on a daily basis.”
SAS has set a target of reducing its CO2 emissions by 25% by the year 2030 compared with 2005, after when it intends to use biofuel corresponding to total fuel consumption for all SAS domestic flights within Scandinavia, or around 17% of total fuel consumption. Last year it signed a letter of intent with Preem, Sweden’s largest fuel company, to produce renewable aviation fuels using forestry residues and other waste materials (see article). The airline is expecting Preem to supply 10-12% of its total fuel demand by 2023.
The latest Sustainability Report just published by SAS Group shows carbon emissions fell from 4,376,000 tonnes in the financial year 2017 to 4,313,000 in 2018, a decrease of 1.4%. This was partly due to a 0.2% fall in total tonne kilometres flown but also as a result of relative passenger-related CO2 emissions decreasing from 96 grams per pax/km to 95. Relative cargo-related CO2 emissions, however, increased during the period to 521 grams per cargo tonne kilometre from 518 the previous year.
The airline reports the nine new Airbus A320neo aircraft and other brand-new wet-lease aircraft introduced into the fleet contributed to the emissions reduction. It has 30 A320neos on order and last year it ordered another 50, with the intention of having a fuel-efficient, single-type narrowbody fleet by 2023. SAS is expecting to also add new Airbus A350 long-haul aircraft this year. It reports that it used 100 tonnes of renewable jet fuel on flights from Stockholm last year.
The airline has set itself the goal of 50% lower CO2 absolute – as opposed to the net target set by the industry – emissions by 2050 compared with 2005.
Finnair’s ‘Push for Change’ programme offers passengers the opportunity to support a cookstove project in Mozambique by donating €1 ($1.13) for a round-trip within Finland, €2 for a round-trip in Europe or €6 for a return intercontinental trip. The charge is based on the average emissions and the costs of reducing one tonne of CO2 within the project. Payments in full will go to the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation, an institution established by the Nordic governments to finance sustainable green growth and climate projects.
Customers can also choose to support the use of biofuels in Finnair flights through contributing 10, 20 or 65 euros for return flights within Finland, within Europe or intercontinental respectively. Finnair says the price is based on a scenario where the aviation fuel used contains a 15% biofuel component and all passengers on the flight have chosen to support the use of biofuel. The airline is partnering with sustainable aviation fuel supplier SkyNRG and the fuel will be produced in California from used cooking oil.
The programme follows a consumer research study conducted last year by Finnair that showed the majority of those questioned were ready to pay to reduce the emissions caused by air travel if the proceeds went directly to environmental causes and supported sustainability (see article). The use of biofuels and carbon sinks were favoured by respondents as the best ways to reduce the environmental impacts of flying.
“We want to offer the best solutions for responsible air travellers,” said Finnair CEO Topi Manner. “Aviation has several positive economic and social impacts, and it is important that we work hard to build more responsible air travel. Many important products we use in our daily life are transported by air cargo, air connections enable international trade and maintain relations, and the travel industry is a key source of income and employment for many countries.”
China Airlines’ Eco Travel programme allows passengers to use a calculator powered by Carbon Analytics to work out the carbon emissions from their flights and the cost to offset them through ClimateCare. The current price to offset one tonne of CO2 is set at $10.35, according to the calculator. A return flight between Taipei and Helsinki in Finland is calculated as costing $12.49. ClimateCare supports a range of cookstove, hydro and reforestation and water purification projects across the developing world.
In 2015, the airline became the first carrier in Taiwan to calculate the carbon footprint for each passenger and tonne of freight using actual operational results and parameters in accordance with ICAO and IATA guidelines. China Airlines is also the first in Taiwan to use sustainable aviation fuels since deliveries of new Airbus A350 aircraft were powered by blended SAF on ferry flights from Toulouse.