Qantas pledges net-zero carbon by 2050, CNG from 2020 on all emissions and heavy investment in SAF
Mon 25 Nov 2019 – Following the move last month by IAG, Australia’s Qantas has become the second airline group to commit to a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050. With immediate effect, Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar Airways will also match every dollar spent by customers opting to offset the carbon footprint of their flights, which the group expects will encourage more travellers to offset their emissions. In addition, the group, which also includes QantasLink and Qantas Freight, will offset the growth in emissions from all domestic and international operations from 2020, going beyond its obligations under CORSIA. Qantas said it will invest A$50 million ($33m) over the next 10 years to help develop a sustainable aviation fuel industry. Last week, Qantas blamed climate change for an increase in the number of flight delays and cancellations at Sydney Airport.
“We recognise that airlines have a responsibility to cut emissions and combat climate change,” commented Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce on the net-zero announcement. “We’ve already made some good progress, especially by investing in newer aircraft that have a much smaller carbon footprint.”
Qantas is replacing its six Boeing 747 aircraft by the end of 2020 with more fuel-efficient Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and has 109 Airbus A320neo family aircraft on order. Jetstar’s A321neo LR variant will begin arriving next year and is expected to use 15% less fuel than the aircraft they are replacing. The group is also stepping up more efficient operations such as single-engine taxiing and smarter flight planning to reduce fuel burn.
However, said Joyce: “We want to do more, and faster. We’re effectively doubling our carbon offsetting programme from now and we’re capping our net emissions across Qantas and Jetstar from 2020 so that all new flying will be carbon neutral.
“Qantas offsets all of its own travel needs and so do many of our customers. By matching their efforts, we’re hoping it will encourage even more people to offset and the programme will keep growing.”
Qantas claims to currently operate the largest carbon offset programme in the aviation industry, with around a 10% passenger uptake. The programme offset 150,000 tonnes of CO2 in the last financial year. The additional investment will be used by Qantas Future Planet – already the largest private sector buyer of Australian carbon credits, said the airline group – to support more conservation and environmental projects in Australia and around the world. Existing projects include protecting the Great Barrier Reef, working with indigenous communities to reduce wildfires in Western Australia and securing over 7,000 hectares of native Tasmanian forest.
The 2020 carbon-neutral growth commitment also includes offsetting all net emissions from Project Sunrise, a plan by Qantas to operate non-stop flights from the east coast of Australia to London and New York, should it proceed. It will also include domestic flights, which are not covered by the ICAO CORSIA global offsetting scheme for international aviation emissions that gets underway in 2021.
“These short-term actions will go towards a longer-term goal of being completely net carbon neutral by 2050. It’s ambitious, but achievable,” said Joyce.
“Innovation is going to be key. We’re investing A$50 million to hopefully kickstart a sustainable aviation fuel industry in Australia. We know from our own trials that the technology works but we need to get to a scale of production where it’s a practical substitute.”
The airline said it would work with governments and private sector partners to support the development of sustainable aviation fuel in Australia and overseas to make it more viable and increase demand throughout the industry.
“Concerns about emissions and climate change are real but we can’t lose sight of the contribution that air travel makes to society and the economy,” stated Joyce. “The industry has already come a long way in cutting its footprint and the solution from here isn’t to simply ‘fly less’ but to make it more sustainable.
“We’re doing this because it’s the responsible thing to do but hopefully it will also encourage more people to choose Qantas and Jetstar because of the action we’re taking.”
Meanwhile, according to government data, above average wind strengths in recent months have contributed to a small decline in flights departing and arriving on time at Sydney with 3.3% of Qantas flights cancelled, well above the 2.2% average.
On-time performance for all carriers had been falling for the past three years, said Qantas Domestic Chief Executive Andrew David, who blamed climate change as a main factor. “We have seen wind velocities 34% higher than the average of the past 30 years and it’s a prevailing westerly rather than the south-south-westerly we’ve seen in the past,” he told The Australian newspaper. “That’s led to runway closures, meaning aircraft movements are slowed.”