Qantas to double flight offsets as part of net-zero 2050 commitment

Australian airline group Qantas will invest $50m in sustainable fuel over the next decade and offset growth in emissions from international and domestic flights in order to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Qantas to double flight offsets as part of net-zero 2050 commitment

Qantas’ offsetting approach is currently the largest in the aviation industry

Qantas joins International Airlines Group (IAG) in becoming only the second airline to commit to net-zero emissions. It will invest $50m in sustainable fuel and Qantas, Jetstar, QantasLink and Qantas Freight will offset all growth in emissions from domestic and international operations from 2020.

The Group’s chief executive Alan Joyce said. “We’re effectively doubling our carbon offsetting program from today 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 program will keep growing. These short-term actions will go towards a longer-term goal of being completely net carbon neutral by 2050. It’s ambitious but achievable.”

Offsetting controversy

The doubling of carbon offsets is controversial. Many green groups have criticised the use of offsetting as a means for companies to avoid delivering any meaningful action on emissions reductions. The certification of carbon offsets is convoluted as many schemes offer differing prices. Up until recently, the certifications themselves were being questioned, although the introduction of the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) has added some authentication to the system. VGS-certified offsets are audited according to the Kyoto protocol, for example.

Qantas’ offsetting approach is currently the largest in the aviation industry, accounting for around 10% of customer flights. Qantas and Jetstar will double the number of flights offset by matching every dollar spent by customers who voluntarily opt-in to the scheme.

The Group will also cover all net-emissions from Project Sunrise, a plan to operate non-stop flights from east Australia to London and New York, if the project is given the go-ahead. Existing projects benefitting from the offsets include protecting the Great Barrier Reef, which has seen the number of new corals fall by 89% after the climate change-induced mass bleaching of 2016 and 2017.

Qantas customers have offset 150,000 tonnes of carbon in 2019.

The group will also look to reduce its emissions through investments in more fuel-efficient aircraft and operations, such as flight planning to reduce fuel use and single-engine taxiing. Qantas will replace its Boeing 747 fleet by the end of 2020 with the more fuel-efficient aircraft that burn 20% less fuel.

Also announced today, Birmingham Airport has set a commitment to become a net-zero carbon airport by 2033, noting that it has a “big opportunity” to reduce emissions via onsite renewable generation and would also minimise the use of carbon offsets.

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Matt Mace

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