Airline industry's first-ever carbon footprint assessment carried out on North American regional carriers
Mon 14 June 2010 – Sustainability measurement and environmental risk management company EQ2 has conducted the first-ever airline industry carbon and environmental footprint assessment in conjunction with the Regional Airline Association (RAA). Using EQ2’s web-based Evolution sustainability management system, seven participating RAA members, representing 52 percent of the US regional fleet, collected data on their fuel, electricity, water usage and waste generation. A report was submitted to the RAA Environmental Committee Meeting held during the recent RAA Annual Convention that is aimed at helping airline members gain a direct insight into issues they face and provide an understanding on how they can improve their environmental performance.
“With the debate running on Capitol Hill over carbon credits and trading schemes, it was important for RAA to get out in front and understand the impact any legislation could have on our industry,” commented Liam Connolly, RAA Senior Director – Regulatory Affairs. “Using EQ2’s Evolution product we are not only able to gain a benchmark of where we are, but we can now work on how we improve our footprint moving forward, regardless of what policy Congress or the Administration advances.”
EQ2 CEO Steve Burt added: “RAA and EQ2 recognized the importance of climate change issues and joined together on this first-of-its-kind project in the aviation industry. RAA utilized our Evolution sustainability management system expertise in order to turn around their data in a quick and easy to understand manner, and we believe that RAA is ahead of the game as a result.”
The measurement process involved capturing actual data from the core environmental impact metrics: energy, greenhouse gases (GHGs), water and waste. This was done alongside the collection of the associated expenses and company financial data, allowing for the assessment of potential risks to business.
At the end of the data collection phase, taken for the year 2009, EQ2 compiled a formal environmental report for each of the airlines, which summarized the data gaps in reporting, reviewed the airline’s environmental performance and discussed the next steps.
The first aim of the project was to establish gaps in the existing environmental data. Although extensive data was available on jet fuel use, when it came to ground-based operations every airline had significant data gaps in available building and ground vehicle energy use data, water usage and waste generation. However, jet fuel was the most significant environmental metric for each airline, accounting for 99.83% of energy usage, 99.7% of GHGs and 99.3% of overall environmental expenses.
Greenhouse gas emissions across the seven airlines totalled nearly 8 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, and calculated according to the specified GHG Protocol Reporting Guidelines. “These emissions currently have no financial expense; however they are likely to be given a real price through government regulation,” notes the report.
EQ2 calculates the potential financial cost to the seven airlines, assuming that they had to pay for their emissions at the current EU Emissions Trading Scheme price, would be around $136 million, “a significant amount that poses real risk to the industry and is a crucial consideration for airline strategy and policy formation.”
As with all pioneering projects that are dictating a future standard, says EQ2, the participating airlines faced issues and challenges, notably the availability of data, the complication of company structures and the contracting of services and facilities. The report recommends that the RAA builds on the project by helping its airline members undertake a continuous measurement and monitoring programme, starting with energy and fuel use, and to support members in improving and communicating publicly on their progress.
“Environmental sustainability, rather than solely a business risk, can be transformed into a business opportunity for each RAA airline member through detailed measurement and effective business management,” concludes the report.
RAA represents 31 North American regional member airlines, which operate 53% of the commercial schedule in the United States, carrying some 160 million passengers annually on board more than 2,700 regional aircraft.