IAG to spend €3m annually on reducing its carbon emissions
British Airways to invest in offsetting emissions produced by its UK domestic flights
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said British Airways would begin investing in projects that reduce carbon emissions to “offset” greenhouse gas produced by its UK domestic flights. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns Aer Lingus, will spend about €3 million a year offsetting greenhouse gas pollution from some services as it aims to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
IAG’s Irish chief executive Willie Walsh said British Airways, one of the group’s carriers, would begin investing in projects that reduce carbon emissions to “offset” – cancel out – greenhouse gas produced by its UK domestic flights.
Mr Walsh estimated that this would cost the group €3.2 million a year but predicted that this would rise as charges for carbon increase. “Clearly it would depend on the cost of carbon at the time,” he said.
The move is part of IAG’s drive to cut its 30 million tonne annual carbon load to a net zero by 2050. Mr Walsh noted that it was the first airline group in the world to make this commitment.
Another element of the strategy involves IAG investing $400 million in developing sustainable aviation fuel over the next 20 years.
This includes a partnership with Velocys, a UK company that plans to build what will be the first plant in the world to process aviation fuel from household waste.
The airline group’s start-up programme, Hangar 53, is working with US firm Mosaic Materials to develop a substance that will absorb or capture carbon as it is emitted into the atmosphere.
IAG is also replacing older aircraft with 142 new models that will produce 25 per cent less carbon. Aer Lingus is taking on new Airbus aircraft for its transatlantic services that will cut the Irish carrier’s fuel consumption.
Mr Walsh explained that the group’s airlines, which also include Spanish carriers Iberia and Vueling, would continue to produce greenhouse gas as flying would rely on burning liquid fuel for some time to come.
However, combining efforts to cut emissions with steps such as offsetting would enable the group to reach its net zero target over the next three decades, he said.
IAG already takes part in a United Nations-backed offsetting programme for aviation, which produces 900 million tonnes of carbon a year, 2 per cent of the man-made emissions that are heating the planet.
Mr Walsh argued that measures such as those taken by the group and the industry were a more effective way than tax for the airline industry to reduce emissions.
The offsetting projects that IAG will back include solar energy development, and planting trees in Africa, Asia and South America.
Mr Walsh said carbon reductions from these undertakings would be credible and verifiable. “We are not going to pay money if it’s not delivering,” he said.
Virtually all IAG’s carbon emissions come from flying. Mr Walsh said that any offsetting schemes that the group backs would be in addition to other measures that it is taking.