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easyJet to become the world’s first major airline to operate net-zero carbon flights

Created: 19th Nov 2019

easyJet, Europe’s leading airline, has today announced that it will become the world’s first major airline to operate net-zero carbon flights across its whole network. The airline will achieve this goal by offsetting the carbon emissions from the fuel used for all of its flights, starting today.

easyJet will undertake carbon offsetting through schemes accredited by two of the highest verification standards, Gold Standard and VCS. They will include forestry, renewable and community based projects.

Carbon offsetting is only an interim measure while new technologies are developed, so the airline will continue to support innovative technology, including the development of hybrid and electric planes, working with others across the industry to reinvent and de-carbonise aviation over the long-term. The aim will be for easyJet to reduce the amount of carbon offsetting undertaken as new technologies emerge.

As part of this goal, we have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Airbus related to a joint research project on hybrid and electric aircraft. The MoU is an important step towards furthering the industry’s understanding of the operational and infrastructure opportunities and challenges of plug-in hybrid and full electric aircraft.
easyJet and Airbus will cooperate on three distinct work packages set to define the impacts and the requirements necessary for the large-scale introduction of next generation sustainable aircraft on infrastructure and every-day commercial aircraft operations.

easyJet has been supporting Wright Electric over the last two years, which is aiming to produce an all-electric ‘easyJet sized’ plane which could be used for short haul flights. The airline is also working with Rolls Royce and Safran on new technologies to reduce the carbon footprint of flying.

easyJet will also aim to stimulate innovation in carbon reduction by supporting the development of technologies which will enable hybrid electric and electric planes and championing advanced carbon capture technologies. We will look to use these technologies as well as sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) as they become available and commercially viable.

With electric technology still in development we will continue to work on additional short and medium term actions to drive a reduction in our carbon emissions. This could include the introduction of technologies such as e-taxiing and electric APUs and the reduction of carbon emissions from easyJet’s non-flying activities through, for example, the use of renewable energy. We also plan to encourage both governments and industry to focus in this area, most notably on airspace efficiency improvements and ensuring that the regulatory regime supports further reductions in emissions by incentivising more efficient flying and supporting innovation – for example through tax incentives.

All of this will build on easyJet’s existing carbon reduction programmes, which include: transitioning our fleet to increasingly more modern, fuel efficient planes; flying them in order to avoid noise and an unnecessary use of fuel; and maximising passenger loads as much as possible.

Since 2000 easyJet has reduced the carbon emissions for each kilometre flown by a passenger by over a third (33.67%). Initiatives have included introducing light weight carpets, trolleys and seats, single engine taxiing and removing paper manuals from aircraft.

In 2013 easyJet established a public target to reduce its carbon emissions per passenger kilometre. The target was strengthened in 2015 to a 10% reduction on carbon emissions per passenger kilometre by 2022 on its 2016 performance.

easyJet is also committing to action beyond carbon, such as to rapidly reduce waste and single-use plastic usage at the company and within its supply chain.

Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s CEO, said:

“Climate change is an issue for all of us. At easyJet we are tackling this challenge head on by choosing to offset the carbon emissions from the fuel used for all of our flights starting today. In doing so we are committing to operating net-zero carbon flights across our network – a world first by any major airline.

“We acknowledge that offsetting is only an interim measure until other technologies become available to radically reduce the carbon emissions of flying, but we want to take action on carbon now.

“People have a choice in how they travel and people are now thinking about the potential carbon impact of different types of transport. But many people still want to fly and if people choose to fly we want to be one of the best choices they can make.

“easyJet has a long tradition of efficient flying – the aircraft we fly and the way we fly them means that easyJet is already more efficient than many airlines. However, our priority is to continue to work on reducing our carbon footprint in the short term, coupled with long-term work to support the development of new technology, including electric planes which aspire to radically reduce the carbon footprint of aviation.

“I am therefore delighted that we have also announced today a new electric plane partnership with Airbus. We will be working together to identify the detailed technical challenges and requirements for electric and electric hybrid planes when deployed for short haul flying around Europe. We hope this will be an important step towards making electric planes a reality.

“Aviation will have to reinvent itself as quickly as it can. This is the reason why we have been supporting Wright Electric since 2017 and are working with Airbus, and Safran on new technologies.

“We also need governments to support efforts to decarbonise aviation. In particular they must reform aviation taxes to incentivise efficient behaviour, fund research and development in new technology and ensure that early movers such as easyJet are not penalised.”

Speaking about easyJet offsetting the carbon emissions from the fuel used for all of its flights, Jonathon Porritt, Co-Founder of Forum for the Future, said:

“This is an exciting development from easyJet, which is obviously taking the issue of climate change very seriously. But as is now widely understood, carbon offsetting can only be a bridge to future technological developments, and it will be important to seek out each and every way of reducing carbon emissions. Beyond that, the whole industry needs to come together more effectively to decarbonise this critical sector just as quickly as possible.”