oneworld and its 13 member airlines are committing to net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. According to the alliance, this makes it the first of its kind to “unite behind a common target to achieve carbon neutrality.”
“The commitment of oneworld member airlines to reach net zero emissions by 2050 underlines the importance that we as an alliance have placed on becoming a more sustainable industry. Despite the challenges we are all facing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not lost sight of the responsibility we have to reduce emissions in the long term and today’s announcement reflects the strength of that commitment.” -Alan Joyce, oneworld Chairman and Qantas Group CEO
The race to 2050
Thirty years is a long time from now, but those feeling the worst effects of climate change may argue that it’s not soon enough. Whatever position you might take, becoming a net-zero carbon emission airline does not come easily.
Here are some of the initiatives airlines are taking in their journey towards net-zero emissions:
- The use of more sustainable materials
- Investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft
- Developing sustainable aviation fuels
A press release by oneworld provides some exciting examples. In the UK, British Airways is part of an initiative to turn household and commercial waste into renewable jet fuel. Across the pond, American Airlines has undertaken an extensive fleet replacement initiative. This has resulted in more than 500 new, more fuel-efficient aircraft joining its fleet in place of less-efficient planes. The US carrier has also begun adopting sustainable aviation fuel.
Finnair hopes to win the race
Each airline (or airline group in some cases) has its own timeline, with 2050 being the ‘lowest common denominator.’ IAG (the parent of member carriers British Airways and Iberia) was the first airline group worldwide to commit to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. On the other side of the planet, Japan Airlines and Qantas have agreed to the same goal of 2050. The one airline to stand out above the rest is Finnair, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality a full five years ahead of its fellow members- choosing 2045 as its target for net-zero carbon emissions.
“Finnair is happy to be part of this important initiative that shows the way for the industry. In addition to determined actions that reduce global emissions today, we must also seek future solutions to solve the climate challenge of our industry and to maintain the positive impacts aviation has for the society – an example of this is Finnair participating in research in zero emission synthetic fuels.” -Topi Manner, CEO, Finnair
Is carbon neutrality achievable by 2050?
There will be a long way to go, but 2050 seems like a reasonable target. Newer aircraft and aircraft engines must continue making advances towards increased efficiency while airport operations must also continue their trend towards electric service vehicles.
Sustainable aviation fuel will need much more investment if it is to power more aircraft, while full-service carriers must find a way to deal with single-use plastics for inflight meals. Finally, passengers may just have to put up with higher fares as airlines cover the balance with carbon offset credits.
It’s clear that the current global situation and the amount of single-use and disposable items being implemented won’t help airlines towards carbon neutrality—another great reason why this health crisis needs to end as soon as possible.
What are your thoughts on this goal of becoming a net-zero group of airlines by 2050? Is it too ambitious? Is it not ambitious enough? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.