Carbon offsetting is becoming an increasingly popular practice. With growing awareness and concern about the extent to which our planet is suffering due to greenhouse emissions and climate change, carbon offsetting is one way that individuals and companies can take action. It involves spending money to compensate for putting carbon into the atmosphere. These funds go towards supporting projects that produce clean energy or reduce carbon emissions in other ways.
With a new phenomenon called ‘flight shaming’ seeking to create awareness about carbon footprints and encourage accountability, the time is now to make positive environmental changes. A number of travel companies are on the right page and are offsetting the holidays that they sell by putting money into reforestation and renewable energy initiatives. For example, British Airways intends to cut its carbon dioxide emissions in half by the year 2050, while Virgin Atlantic is partnering with manufacturers and tech companies to develop a jet fuel that creates 50-per-cent less carbon that fossil fuels, and Alaska Airlines is the first airline to remove plastic straws from its flights.
We are … calling on governments to create the policies and incentives that will ensure we collectively meet our global climate goals
Lufthansa Group is another airline heading towards sustainable aviation. In its 25th sustainability report, it underlines the moves it is making to this end. Carsten Spohr, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Lufthansa Group, commented on the airline’s sense of duty: “Aviation brings many achievements for the modern world. There is no globalisation without airlines. We are aware of the fact that the past years’ growth in passenger numbers also implies growing responsibility for us to ensure that future mobility will be shaped in environmentally compatible ways. We are investing billions in state-of-the-art aircraft that consume 25-per-cent less kerosene than their predecessors.” The fleet now boasts 40 ultramodern Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A350-900 long-haul aircraft, which are believed to be the most fuel efficient in their class.
This year, the Group has made all duty air travel for its staff CO2 neutral. It is achieving this by offsetting emissions by a Swiss climate protection foundation called myclimate. In addition, it has vowed to convert all ground handling services in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to CO2-neutral operations by 2030. Furthermore, the airline intends to expand its social commitment, which will be done through a series of projects in Germany.
Another company setting a good example is International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns British Airways. IAG has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by the year 2050. On its website it states: “With Flightpath net zero, we are putting environmental sustainability at the heart of our business, ready to meet the task ahead. We are also using our influence to encourage industry partners to play their part and calling on governments to create the policies and incentives that will ensure we collectively meet our global climate goals.”
Offsetting shouldn’t be about carbon neutrality; it should be about being carbon positive
Not everyone is a fan of carbon offsetting though; Responsible Travel, which is an online directory of holiday companies, believes the practice is flawed and stated that it will not promote tour operators’ offsetting schemes on its website. According to the company’s Founder Justin Francis: “They provide a quick fix and delay the need for urgent innovation and investment by allowing the continued use of emissions-intensive fuels.” The company said that it instead advocates a global tax on aviation. As it is weighted, business- and first-class travellers and those taking domestic flights pay more than those in economy seats.
Much Better Adventures is another company that is skeptical of the efficacy of carbon offsetting schemes. Founder Sam Bruce said: “The truth is people will continue to travel and we need to reduce the carbon that’s being spat out from their travels and make sure we’re putting it back in. The travel industry should be doing more. Offsetting shouldn’t be about carbon neutrality; it should be about being carbon positive.”
We at ITIJ believe that it’s about doing your best. It is refreshing to see travel companies setting a good example, whether that be through carbon offsetting or alternative environmentally friendly practices. A domino effect is being seen with more and more companies and individuals eager to play a role in protecting our planet. Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see the pledges and initiatives that emerge from airlines and other important entities in the travel industry.