Qantas aims for net zero emissions by 2050 in commitment to sustainable aviation

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Australian airline group Qantas has announced its intentions to reach zero carbon emission by 2050, in a major expansion of its commitment to a more sustainable aviation industry.

Effective 11 November 2019, the airline will immediately double the number of flights being offset, cap net emissions from 2020 onwards, and invest AUD$50 million (€31 million) over a 10-year period to help develop a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry.

The commitment makes Qantas the online airline group to pledge to cap its net emissions at 2020 levels, and is the second to commit to net zero emission by 2050.

Qantas and its subsidiaries Jetstar, QantasLink and Qantas Freight will offset all growth in emissions from domestic and international operations from 2020. This includes offsetting all net emissions from Project Sunrise, which aims to see the operation of non-stop flights from Australia’s East Coast to London and New York.

The airline will work with industry, research institutions and governments to develop long-term solutions to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry over the next 30 years.

Sustainable aviation fuel

In addition to doubling the number of flights being offset, Qantas will invest in the development of a sustainable aviation fuel industry over the next decade. SAF can reduce carbon emissions by 80% compared to traditional jet fuel, however fuels are currently almost double the price.

The airline will work with both government and private sector partners to develop SAF in Australia and globally in order to make it more viable and to increase demand.

Commenting on the commitment, CEO Alan Joyce said: “We recognise that airlines have a responsibility to cut emissions and combat climate change. We’ve already made some good progress, especially by investing in newer aircraft that have a much smaller carbon footprint.

“We want to do more, and faster. We’re effectively doubling our carbon offsetting programme from today and we’re capping our net emissions across Qantas and Jetstar from 2020 so that all new flying will be carbon neutral.

“Qantas offsets all of its own travel needs and so do many of our customers. By matching their efforts, we’re hoping it will encourage even more people to offset and the programme will keep growing. These short-term actions will go towards a longer-term goal of being completely net carbon neutral by 2050. It’s ambitious, but achievable.”

Joyce added: “Innovation is going to be key. We’re investing $50 million to hopefully kickstart a sustainable aviation fuel industry in Australia. We know from our own trials that the technology works but we need to get to a scale of production where it’s a practical substitute.

“Concerns about emissions and climate change are real, but we can’t lose sight of the contribution that air travel makes to society and the economy. The industry has already come a long way in cutting its footprint and the solution from here isn’t to simply ‘fly less’ but to make it more sustainable. We’re doing this because it’s the responsible thing to do, but hopefully it will also encourage more people to choose Qantas and Jetstar because of the action we’re taking.”