easyJet’s measures its carbon emissions for each kilometre travelled by passengers and this week (10 May) announced that these levels had dropped below the 80g threshold for the first time. Since 2000, the company has seen emissions fall from 116.2g to 79.98g, a fall of more than 30%.

Having passed the 80g threshold, easyJet will strive to reduce emissions further to 77g by 2020, which would create a 33% reduction against 2000 levels.

easyJet’s carbon efficiency programme lead Captain Chris Foster said: “At easyJet we want to make sure that we take our passengers where they want to go with the lowest carbon emissions. Through our efficiency programme we continually look for ways to reduce fuel usage and emissions.

“By using modern aircrafts and flying them efficiently we will have successfully reduced the carbon impact of our flights by a third in twenty years, delivering a step change in the environmental impact of our flights.”

easyJet’s emissions per kilometre travelled by passengers fell from more than 82g to 79.98g last year. The company has been exploring numerous small ways to increase efficiency that, when incorporated together, can deliver carbon savings.

Specifically, easyJet pilots only use one engine whilst taxiing, which accounts for around 20 minutes of each flight, and covers around four million miles each year. When stationed at the airport, electrical power is used rather than fuel-burning auxiliary power units.

Efficiencies have also been obtained through regular washing of the engine compressors and reducing the weight of the aircraft – seats used in easyJet’s Recaro are 26% lighter than previous versions. Pilots have also replaced laptops and printed navigational charts with Panasonic Toughpads, removing 27kg of paper on each aircraft and delivering a 2,000-tonne reduction in emissions each year.

Sharklet wing tips deliver a 4% fuel saving through aerodynamics and 130 new engine aircrafts will join the fleet by 2020, with the engines 15% more fuel efficient than its predecessors.

Technological frontier

Emissions from the aviation sector, which account for around 2% of global emissions, are expected to skyrocket and even the global aviation climate deal agreed last year has been criticised for its lack of ambition. With a lack of robust policies to guide them, airlines are taking it upon themselves to explore ways to lower emissions.

Virgin Atlantic is trialling a ‘game-changing’ alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) fuel, and last year Alaska Airlines operated the first commercial jet powered by forest biomass.

easyJet is also exploring new technologies. The airline is developing hybrid planes that utilise hydrogen fuel cells to capture energy when the aircraft brakes on landing, to be used when taxiing. easyJet will also provide an airline operators perspective to Wright Electric, which is developing an aircraft that runs on electric batteries.

Commenting on easyJet’s announcement, WWF’s climate change specialist James Beard called on the UK Government to build policies to tackle aviation emissions, rather than funnelling money into runway expansions.

“All efforts to cut carbon emissions are welcome, so it’s pleasing to see easyJet flying more efficiently,” Beard said. “However, aviation remains the most carbon-intensive way to travel and one of the fastest growing sources of carbon emissions in the world so we need much more action then just airlines tinkering around the edges.

“We should be looking at cleaner ways to keep connected, such as international rail and videoconferencing. The UK Government needs to face this problem head on and come up with a credible plan for dealing with aviation emissions before building any new runways or just hoping that actions of individual operators deal with the problem.”

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie