TUI plans to ‘step lightly’ with aviation emissions

The world's largest travel and tourism business has embarked upon an ambitious new sustainability strategy with a particular focus on next-generation fuel development to slash airline emissions.

TUI Group, which owns 136 aircrafts under six brands including Thomson and TUIfly, has today (28 September) pledged to reduce the carbon intensity of its air, cruise and ground operations by 10% by 2020, following on from a 10% reduction already achieved since 2008.

The firm, which was formed late last year in a merger between TUI Travel and German parent company TUI AG, claims  its ‘Better Holidays, Better World’ strategy is a “step-change” in approach to sustainability; with enhanced commitments to influence, innovate and invest in green tourism worldwide.

For TUI Group’s director of sustainability Jane Ashton, the biggest challenge will lie in minimising the environmental impact of air travel, which now accounts for around 80% of the group’s total carbon footprint.

Ashton told edie: “The 10% reduction target will pertain largely to the airlines. We’re already markedly more efficient than the other largest airlines in Europe, and we’ve reduced carbon emissions per passenger kilometre by 10% over the last 6 years so it will be quite a challenge.”

Green diesel

The new strategy will initially take a two-pronged approach to more sustainable aviation. First, an ongoing fleet replacement plan will see the influx of Boeing 737 Max aircrafts which are around 15% more fuel efficient than current models. And second, an increased focus on fuel conservation, with a dedicated team investigating new fuel efficiency programmes.

More resources are also being put towards the development of lower-carbon fuels, which are playing an increasingly important role in the aviation industry’s efforts to meet challenging environmental targets.

Ashton explained that the TUI Group is currently collaborating with Boeing and NASA on the ‘ecoDemonstrator’ project to trial next-generation biofuels – specifically ‘green diesel’ which is made from animal waste and used vegetable oi and could be approved for commercial flights as early as next year.

“We’ve been instrumental in trialling new fuels and they’ve performed very well,” Ashton said. “We know they work, we just need the policy frameworks in place to help scale them up and ease distribution.”

Lead the way

Air travel emits more than 650 million metric tons of carbon pollution each year – the equivalent of 136 million cars. The aviation industry has committed to hold its carbon emissions steady after 2020 and cut net carbon emissions to 50% of 2005 levels by 2050. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) will next year announce a carbon standard for new aircraft that will come into force in 2020 – something Ashton is keen to see agreed.

Other notable commitments within TUI Group’s wide-ranging 2020 sustainability strategy include the delivery of 10 million ‘greener and fairer holidays’ – those that include hotels with a credible sustainability certification – each year by 2020; and an investment of €10m a year to enhance the positive impacts of sustainable tourism through various collaborative projects involving education and skills development.

“We realise we can’t just focus on our own operations – our sustainability is totally dependent on the infrastructure within in the areas we operate,” added Ashton. “We’ll continue to collaborate with other organisations and destinations to try and bring the rest of the tourism industry along with us.”

Ashton has previously voiced her support for the development of an industry standard on reporting carbon emissions, which would allow customers to make informed decisions about which airlines to choose. Meanwhile, a report released earlier this month by the New Climate Economy called upon the ICAO to set industry-wide carbon reduction targets, or risk a three-fold increase in emissions.

TUI Group Better Holidays Better World Strategy

Luke Nicholls

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