JetBlue follows European lead and becomes first US airline to offset CO2 emissions from its domestic flights
JetBlue A321XLR (image Airbus)
Fri 10 Jan 2020 – Low-cost airline JetBlue is to offset the CO2 emissions from all its domestic flights beginning in July, becoming the first major US airline to make the move. JetBlue said it expects to offset between 7 and 8 million tonnes of emissions annually through projects focused on but not limited to forestry, landfill gas capture and solar/wind projects. In Europe, Air France, British Airways and easyJet have begun offsetting their domestic emissions from January 1. With French partner EcoAct, Air France will offset the emissions of 450 flights per day, which carry around 57,000 passengers, through projects in South America, Africa and Asia, and will develop two projects in France. British Airways is undertaking a tender process to select offsetting partners and specific projects for its carbon neutral UK domestic flights initiative.
JetBlue said it had already offset 2.6 billion pounds (1.18m tonnes) since 2008 through US-based Carbonfund.org and has now added two new offsetting partners, South Pole and EcoAct. High-quality carbon credits that adhere to a strict set of standards have been purchased, assures the airline. Projects are registered with a third-party internationally recognised verification standard, including the Gold Standard, Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), Social Carbon and Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards, or standards verified by the UNFCCC. JetBlue said its selected projects follow principles to ensure emission reductions are real, measurable, permanent, additional, independently audited and unique, with transparent disclosure of GHG-related information along with a conservative approach to reduction estimation.
“Carbon offsetting is a bridge to, not a silver bullet for, a lower carbon future,” commented Robin Hayes, JetBlue CEO. “We reduce where we can and offset where we can’t. By offsetting all of our domestic flying, we’re preparing our business for the lower-carbon economy that aviation – and all sectors – must plan for.”
The airline has also announced a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) purchase agreement with Neste for use on flights from San Francisco starting this year. When blended with fossil jet fuel, it will be shipped via SFO’s fuel distribution infrastructure. The Neste MY Renewable Jet Fuel product is produced from waste and residue raw materials and claims up to 80% smaller carbon footprint compared to fossil jet fuel.
The airline said it was continually exploring SAF options and views SAF as a critical part of the industry’s transition to a lower-carbon model. “With agreements like these, JetBlue is helping to kick-start the SAF market and lead the economics on these lower carbon fuels,” it added.
Carbon offsetting and SAF purchase were just two examples the airline said it was making to mitigate its contribution to climate change “in response to public and market demand”. JetBlue claims its incoming 85 new Airbus A321neos will improve fuel economy by 20%, as well as 70 Airbus A220s aircraft that will reduce emissions per seat by around 40% compared to the older aircraft they will replace. The airline said it was also advocating for a more efficient ATC system, where current inefficiencies were accounting for as much as 12% of unnecessary fuel burn and resulting emissions.
Air France said its six offsetting projects would focus on reforestation, forest preservation and biodiversity, along with the development of renewable energies, “while guaranteeing the protection of the most vulnerable populations”. All projects selected, it added, have received the highest certification standards on the voluntary carbon standard market – Gold Standard, Verra’s VCS or CCBA’s additional CCB Standards.
“Projects supported will include the Floresta de Portel initiative in North-West Brazil, whose mission is to prevent deforestation and protect one of the planet’s richest ecosystems with the support of the local population, with 22 million tons of CO2e at stake,” said the airline. “Wildlife and plants will be protected and jobs created by supporting entrepreneurial projects for the creation of a local agroforestry sector.”
Air France declined to reveal the CO2 emissions from its domestic flights or how many tonnes would be offset but told GreenAir: “However, it can be said that we will invest several million euros in compensation.”
The airline reported additional details about the other selected projects would be released progressively early this year and some of them may be submitted to a vote by Air France’s customers.
The company aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by 50% per passenger/km by 2030 compared to 2005 and between 2011 and 2019 reduced emissions per pax/km by 20%. It recently signed a partnership with the Solar Impulse Foundation to develop sustainable solutions for aviation (see article).
“We owe it to our customers, our children and our children’s children, and also to ourselves, to set ever higher goals and to expect everyone to make the same commitment,” said Air France CEO Anne Rigail. “I’m asking the airline to take up this extraordinary collective challenge between now and 2030, and to make sustainable development an increasingly important part of its actions and services.”
In contrast to Air France’s 450 daily domestic flights, British Airways operates up to 75 flights a day between London and 10 UK cities. It estimates these flights emit a total of around 400,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, which are already partly covered by the airline’s participation in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).
“All our offset calculations take account of the emission reductions made through the EU ETS legislation by subtracting them from the total,” a BA spokesperson told GreenAir. “This means that intra-European flights have lower residual emissions remaining to be offset because those flights have already been subject to government legislation to reduce emissions. Therefore, the residual amount that is left to be offset by British Airways for our flights within the UK is around 54% to make the flight carbon neutral.”
The airline said the offsets would be invested in high-quality verified carbon reduction projects around the world, covering renewable energy, rainforest protection and reforestation. Customers flying beyond the UK can continue to use BA’s carbon offsetting tool to calculate their emissions and choose projects in Peru, Sudan and Cambodia through the airline’s partnership with not-for-profit charity Pure Leapfrog. Using the tool, flyers pay around £1 ($1.30) to offset an economy return flight from London to New York, while from London to New York in business class costs around £15.
BA said carbon neutrality on UK domestic flights was one of a range of initiatives towards the airline’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which include flying more fuel-efficient aircraft, investing in sustainable aviation fuel and changing operating procedures.
“We know that air travel continues to grow, but we also know that our future has to be sustainable,” commented CEO Alex Cruz. “Solving the complex issue of climate change requires a multifaceted response and offsetting emissions on all flights within the UK is just one step that we are adopting to reduce our environmental impact while more solutions to decarbonise are found. Our emissions reduction projects are carefully chosen to ensure they are proven and deliver real reductions as well as economic, social and environmental benefits.”
European low-cost airline easyJet announced in November that it would be offsetting the carbon emissions from all its flights with immediate effect (see article). It is being advised by Climate Focus on selecting projects and partners, and helping develop its offset project portfolio. The airline has also formed partnerships with EcoAct and First Climate, and Gold Standard and VCS projects have been selected in South America, Africa and India covering forest conservation, solar energy and clean water.
According to its latest annual report, easyJet’s CO2 emissions for the 2019 financial year amounted to 8.2 million tonnes, compared to 7.6 million tonnes the previous year, with the rise attributed to the continued expansion of its operations and an 8.6% increase in passenger numbers. The airline has estimated the cost of purchasing offsets to be in the region of £25 million ($32m) per year.
Also in November, the Lufthansa Group announced corporate customers on Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian Airlines flights within Europe can fly carbon neutral from January 2020. Through the Group’s Corporate Value Fares, carbon offsetting is automatically included for contract customers. The certified high-quality offsets are being sourced through long-term Swiss partner myclimate. The Group said it was working on a tariff option that excluded carbon offsetting for those companies that already have their own initiatives.