Virgin Founder Richard Branson Believes Carbon Neutral Aviation Is Closer Than You Think

Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Atlantic, believes that we are only a few short steps away from having carbon-neutral aviation. This comes at a time when the rising green movement is encouraging people to not fly and to take other forms of transport instead.

Richard branson
Richard Branson finally weighs in on the flight shaming movement. Photo: Virgin

What are the details?

Air Travel has unfortunately become one of the most visible sources of CO2 emissions in the world. This has spurred what is known as ‘flight shaming’, where people are made to feel guilty for choosing to use such a polluting method to reach their destinations.

This movement has been headed by people such as Greta Thunberg, who believe that the root cause of the aviation impact is people choosing to fly. By looking for alternative forms of travel, such as boats or trains, travelers can help drive down CO2.

As such, airlines are doing everything they can to try and reduce their impact on the environment (when arguably there are some other industries that are far more polluting, like commerce and shipping).

These steps can include using newer aircraft which are more efficient, thereby burning less fuel and saving the airline money too. Using a bio-sourced fuel can be another way to make flying produce fewer emissions by negating the petrochemical supply chain. Lastly, airlines can actually choose to offset flights with carbon credits.

Virgin Atlantic at LHR
Virgin Atlantic is the second biggest flag carrier of England. Photo: Simple Flying

What is Virgin Atlantic’s position?

Speaking in a recent interview with The Guardian, Sir Richard Branson outlined how he felt about the ‘flight shaming’ movement.

“Realistically, people are not going to stop flying – the most avid of marchers are going to fly. What’s critical is that we enable them to fly as environmentally friendly as possible.”

As such, he reaffirmed that Virgin Atlantic plans to match rival British Airways’ plan to be a carbon-neutral airline by 2050. To do this the airline plans to:

  • Having a fleet of aircraft that operate with 25-30% more efficiently than the current fleet. Some short-haul aircraft may actually be battery powered.
  • Looking at alternative fuel sources, such as one derived from waste created from aluminum and steel production.

“Some people think that every other problem apart from aviation in the world will be ticked, and aviation will never be ticked. I disagree: I think aviation can also be carbon neutral, and sooner than people realize.”

Virgin A350
Virgin Atlantic is already investing in a new fleet of A350 aircraft. Photo: Virgin Atlantic

He has also been lobbying the British government to introduce sweeping green taxes on businesses to help raise money for more green technology infrastructure. He has been criticized that this would cost the economy billions of dollars, but he is confident that it is worth it in the long run.

“They are not hypotheticals, it’s just getting the quantity. We need to make sure we get the trillions and trillions needed to speed up the processes of all these things.”

What do you think? Do you agree with Richard Branson? Let us know in the comments.