IAG commits to net zero emissions by 2050 and BA to offset all carbon emissions on domestic UK flights from 2020
Thu 10 Oct 2019 – International Airlines Group (IAG) has become the first airline group to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with interim targets for a 10% reduction in CO2 per passenger kilometre by 2025 and a 20 per cent reduction in net CO2 by 2030, both compared to 2020 levels. IAG says it is developing management incentives for employees to reduce carbon emissions across the group in line with the targets. IAG subsidiary British Airways (BA) has also announced that from 2020 it plans to offset CO2 emissions, estimated at around 400,000 tonnes per year, from all UK domestic flights. The airline is partnering with not-for-profit Pure Leapfrog on a new scheme to offer its passengers an offsetting option on international flights, with proceeds going to forestry REDD+ and cook stove projects in Cambodia, Peru and Sudan.
IAG says its pledge will contribute to both the UK government’s commitment to a net zero carbon economy by 2050 and the UN objective to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. The goal, it believes, can be achieved through replacing older aircraft with new, more fuel-efficient models; replacing fossil-based kerosene with sustainable aviation fuels and addressing remaining emissions through carbon offsetting.
The airline group – which includes BA, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling and Level – says it is the first time it has set a target to reduce net CO2 emissions, with the goal to cut emissions from around the 26 million tonnes (Mt) expected in 2020 to 22 Mt by 2030, an overall saving of 160 Mt over the 10-year period. This translates to producing 60% less net CO2 per passenger km than in 2005. IAG says it is already meeting a fuel efficiency target of 87.3 grammes of CO2 per passenger km by 2020 compared to 100.5 in 2012, and has added a new target of 80.0 by 2025.
As well as investing in new aircraft, IAG says as part of its ‘Flightpath net zero’ initiative it will focus on more weight and waste reductions on board aircraft, reducing energy use and moving to renewable electricity, and expanding its electric vehicle fleet. It has already committed $400 million over 20 years towards sustainable aviation fuel development and will be looking at investing in other future technologies such as hybrid/electric aircraft and carbon capture.
“We are under no illusions, the challenge is great,” admits IAG of the net zero target. “Aviation brings great benefits and 80% of emissions are for journeys over 1,500 kms where there are no reasonable alternatives to flying. As an industry, we are currently reliant on fossil fuels and the low carbon solutions for aviation are more complex than for many other sectors. But we believe our ambitious goal is achievable.”
Added IAG CEO Willie Walsh: “We’re investing in new aircraft and innovative technology to reduce our carbon footprint in an industry where there’s no current alternative to jet fuel. In addition to our own initiatives, there must be a global solution and we’re participating in the new UN aviation offsetting scheme [CORSIA], which allows our industry to invest in carbon reduction in other sectors.
“Aviation’s dependency on fossil fuels means it’s essential that governments support its efforts to decarbonise by providing incentives to accelerate investment in new technologies. Global warming needs a global solution and all these initiatives will help limit the world’s temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.”
British Airways says it is the first UK airline to offset the emissions from all its flights within the UK. It operates 75 flights a day between London and 10 UK cities. Passengers on international flights have the option of using a carbon offsetting tool to calculate their emissions and then choosing and paying for one of the Verified Carbon Standard projects or a combination of all three. The cost to offset a return London to Madrid flight in economy class (0.11 tonnes of CO2) costs £1.00 ($1.20) while a one-way business class flight from London to Hong Kong (2.21 tonnes of CO2) would cost between £11.53 and £13.21 at current prices, depending on the project chosen, or £12.65 if a mix of all three.
The two rainforest protection projects are in Cardamom, Cambodia and the Cordillera Azul National Park, Peru. The third project provides low-smoke cook stoves for communities in the Darfur region of Sudan, the first registered carbon credit project in the country and the first to be developed in a conflict zone.
“British Airways is determined to play its part in reducing aviation’s CO2 emissions,” commented its Chief Executive, Alex Cruz. “To solve such a multi-faceted issue requires a multi-faceted response and this initiative further demonstrates our commitment to a sustainable future. It also follows our announcement to partner with renewable fuels company Velocys to build a facility which converts household and commercial waste into renewable sustainable jet fuel to power our fleet.”
BA is currently operating 44 more efficient 787s, A350s and A320neos and has a further 73 on order. The airline says since its inclusion in the EU Emissions Trading System in 2012, emissions on European flights have been reduce by more than 8 million tonnes, or around 40% on every European flight.