Qantas commits to carbon offsetting to reach net-zero emissions by 2050
Qantas has announced i...
The airline intends to introduce new flight paths, offset journey emissions and invest in sustainable fuels to reach 2050 target
Qantas has announced its commitment to investing AU$50mn in sustainable fuel and green initiatives, in a bid to offset its expected carbon emission growth during 2020. The airline is the second, behind British Airways, to make efforts towards a net-zero emissions target. It intends to achieve the offset through Jetstar, QantasLink and Qantas Freight from 2020.
Chief Executive of Qantas, 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.” According to Joyce, “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.”
There is still some debate around the efficacy of offsets, with some opponents suggesting that the changes do not contribute to any meaningful action. A common comparison is against ‘indulgences’ historically given by the ecclesiarchy, where a person would pay the church to pray for them to appease sins. This has become a common framework to discredit offsets after first being penned by George Monbiot in an article in The Guardian in 2006. In this, Monibot called offsets a way to “buy yourself a clean conscience by paying someone else to undo the harm you are causing”. The Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) has meant that a new standard for the certification of emission reductions has reached some uniformity and offsets are audited according to the Kyoto Protocol, meaning stricter, more clearly defined benchmarks for change.
The certification of action against climate change and a companies framework for offsets has meant that, older, less effective habits have fallen at the roadside. Planting trees was often praised as a valid offsetting tool, yet the beneficial results could take decades to come to fruition. With stricter guidelines companies must turn to more immediate results. Speaking of the comparison between indulgences and offsets, David Roberts, writer for Grist said: "If there really were such a thing as sin, and there was a finite amount of it in the world, then indulgences would have been a perfectly sensible idea," Roberts has written. "The comparison is a weak and transparent smear, which makes me wonder why critics rely so heavily on it."
Qantas’ commitments are the largest offsetting initiative piloted by an airline company across the industry, accounting for around 10% of its customer flights. The initiative is intended to cover net-emissions from Project Sunrise, a plan to run non-stop flights between Australia, London and New-York. Qantas has already started offset projects around the Great Barrier Reef, which was hit in 2016-2017 by climate change induced bleaching. Fuel efficient aircraft as well as newly planned routes to increase operational efficiency are also being included in the plan. The new aircraft are set to replace the Boeing 747 in operation by Qantas by 2020. They burn 20% less fuel than traditional aeroplanes with the investment in sustainable fuel sources in mind for the future.
UK's emissions target: to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035.
The UK government announced two days prior to Earth Day, that it will set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law, to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035.
This Carbon Budget limits the volume of greenhouse gases emitted over a 5-year period, from 2033 to 2037, taking the UK more than three-quarters of the way to reaching net-zero, by 2050.
It will ensure that Britain remains on track to end its contribution to climate change, whilst remaining consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts towards 1.5°C.
For the first time, this Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions.
On Earth Day (22 April), Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the opening session of the US Leaders’ Summit on Climate, hosted by President Biden. The Prime Minister will urge countries to raise ambition on tackling climate change and join the UK in stretching targets for reducing emissions by 2030, to align with net-zero.
The government is already working towards its commitment to reduce emissions in 2030, by at least 68% compared to 1990 levels through the UK’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution - the highest reduction target made by a major economy to date. Today’s world-leading announcement builds on this goal to achieve a 78% reduction by 2035.
The new target will become enshrined in law by the end of June 2021, with legislation setting out the UK government’s commitments laid in Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday 21 April).
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said:
“We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change, and that’s why we’re setting the most ambitious target to cut emissions in the world.
“The UK will be home to pioneering businesses, new technologies and green innovation as we make progress to net zero emissions, laying the foundations for decades of economic growth in a way that creates thousands of jobs.
“We want to see world leaders follow our lead and match our ambition in the run up to the crucial climate summit COP26, as we will only build back greener and protect our planet if we come together to take action.”
Business and Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said:
“The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change and today’s announcement means our low carbon future is now in sight. The targets we’ve set ourselves in the sixth Carbon Budget will see us go further and faster than any other major economy to achieve a completely carbon neutral future.
“This latest target shows the world that the UK is serious about protecting the health of our planet, while also seizing the new economic opportunities it will bring and capitalising on green technologies – yet another step as we build back greener from the pandemic we lead the world towards a cleaner, more prosperous future for this generation and those to come.”
The UK over-achieved against its first and second Carbon Budgets and is on track to outperform the third Carbon Budget which ends in 2022.
This is due to significant cuts in greenhouse gases across the economy and industry, with the UK bringing emissions down 44% overall between 1990 and 2019, and two-thirds in the power sector.
Moreover, the UK continues to break records in renewable electricity generation, which has more than quadrupled since 2010 while low carbon electricity overall now gives us over 50% of our total generation.