CEO of European low-cost airline Wizz, Jozsef Varadi, has slammed the idea of carbon offsetting at an industry conference this week. Calling it ‘a bit of a joke’, he failed to realize that the airline he leads has a carbon offsetting scheme of its own.
A bit of a joke
Wizz Air’s outspoken CEO Jozsef Varadi is never short of a word or two when he’s got an opinion on something. From calling business class ‘unethical’ to decrying slot waivers as ‘nonsense’, Varadi isn’t afraid to tell it like it is when it’s a topic close to his heart.
This week, it was the turn of carbon offsetting when the Wizz boss spoke about it at the World Routes conference in Milan. The low-cost airline has frequently made bold claims about its green credentials, investing in new aircraft to lower its carbon footprint, while others are more reliant on offsetting emissions to meet their short-term goals.
When speaking about carbon offsetting in general, Varadi told the World Routes conference that it was all ‘a bit of a joke’. Lambasting the practice, he said it was nothing more than ‘greenwashing’, echoing similar comments he made as long ago as 2019. But there’s an interesting twist to Varadi’s outburst – he’s leading an airline that offers its own carbon offsetting scheme.
Challenged by a journalist from Euronews Green on this point, Varadi reportedly looked confused and had to ask his Chief of Staff, “do we?” Having confirmed that Wizz does indeed have its own carbon offsetting scheme, he went on to defend his position, admitting that it’s ‘not going to change the world’. He commented,
“Just imagine that you fly a crappy old aircraft, you pollute the world like hell, and then you [plant] two trees, and you think you are done?”
What’s in an offsetting scheme?
Not all carbon offsetting schemes are created equal. Some do indeed rely on the planting of young trees, which can take years, decades, in fact, to have any effect on the environment. Who can say if the trees will even be there in 20 years when they’ve soaked up the carbon produced by your flight?
But the scheme that Wizz Air offers has some far better credentials than just plain old tree planting. Working with CHOOOSE, the airline’s contributions go towards a range of sustainability projects, including reforestation, but some which are likely to make a genuine difference to the world.
CHOOOSE supports the development of sustainable aviation fuel, helps projects that are facilitating the transition to renewable energy sources and even funds Direct Air Capture of carbon, amongst other things. While no carbon offsetting scheme is perfect, some offer a touch more than others, and CHOOOSE is one of the more reputable schemes.
Varadi has a point, though – offsetting alone is not going to solve the climate crisis or repair the reputation of aviation in general. Nevertheless, it’s a step in the right direction in the short term while more permanent solutions are matured.