Qantas Airways has vowed to cut its carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, amid growing eco-consciousness among travellers and increasing scrutiny of airline companies’ carbon footprint.
Starting from November 11, 2019, the national carrier will immediately double the number of flights being offset, and cap net emissions from 2020 onwards.
Qantas is the only airline group to commit to capping its net emissions at 2020 levels, and the second after IAG to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.
The group said that Qantas, Jetstar, QantasLink and Qantas Freight will offset all growth in emissions from domestic and international operations from 2020.
This includes offsetting all net emissions from Project Sunrise, the carrier’s plan to operate non-stop flights from the east coast of Australia to London and New York, should the project proceed. This will also extend to domestic flying, meaning that growth on key routes like Melbourne-Sydney will be carbon neutral.
From November 11, Qantas and Jetstar will double the number of flights offset by matching every dollar spent by customers who tick the box to fly carbon neutral.
Qantas claims that it currently operates the largest carbon offset program in the aviation industry, with around 10 per cent of customers booking flights on Qantas.com choosing to offset their flights.
This additional investment will see Qantas Future Planet, the airline’s website which allows travellers to buy carbon offsets, support more conservation and environmental projects in Australia and around the world.
Existing projects include protecting the Great Barrier Reef, working with Indigenous communities to reduce wildfires in Western Australia and securing over 7000ha of native Tasmanian forest.
Qantas said that it will also invest A$50 million (US$36 million) over the next 10 years to help develop a sustainable aviation fuel industry.
Sustainable aviation fuel can reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent compared to traditional jet fuel, but are currently almost double the price, said the airline.
Qantas said that it will work with governments and private sector partners to support the development of sustainable aviation fuel in Australia and overseas “to make it more viable and increase demand throughout the industry”.
The airline will also continue to reduce its emissions through continued investment in more fuel efficient aircraft, more efficient operations such as single-engine taxiing, and smarter flight planning to reduce fuel burn.
Qantas will replace its Boeing 747 fleet by end 2020 with the Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which burn 20 per cent less fuel than a similar-sized aircraft. Jetstar’s A321neo LR aircraft, which begin arriving next year, use 15 per cent less fuel than the aircraft they are replacing.
Qantas Group’s CEO Alan Joyce said: “We’re doing this because it’s the responsible thing”, adding that these commitments are “ambitious, but achievable”.
“Concerns about emissions and climate change are real, but we can’t lose sight of the contribution that air travel makes to society and the economy. The industry has already come a long way in cutting its footprint and the solution from here isn’t to simply ‘fly less’ but to make it more sustainable.”