The transportation industry is responsible for a major chunk of carbon emissions in the world. Aviation accounts for about 2% of emissions. The impact of the aviation industry has been increasing in recent years. In fact, according to a European Commission (EC) fact sheet, if global aviation were a country, it would rank among the top 10 emitters.
By 2020, global international aviation emissions are projected to be around 70% higher than in 2005 and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) forecasts that by 2050 they could grow by a further 300 to 700%.
In order to take responsibility of these emissions and contribute to the objective of limiting the increase in global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, International Airlines Group (IAG), parent of British Airways (BA), Aer Lingus, Iberia and several other carriers, has made a commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This has caused it to become the first airline group worldwide to do so.
The group has led efforts to establish the United Nations’ first global carbon offsetting program, the market-based Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), that will enable aviation to cut its emissions by 2.5 billion tons between 2020 and 2035 through a $40 billion investment in carbon reduction projects. While domestic aviation emissions are covered under the Paris Agreement, international flights, which account for approximately 65% of the industry’s carbon emissions, are covered by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The new emissions goal will be achieved through a variety of environmental initiatives: British Airways will offset carbon emissions for all its U.K. domestic flights from 2020. The carrier plans to achieve this goal by investing in verified carbon reduction projects equivalent to the carbon emissions it creates for domestic flights. These include solar energy projects, forestation programs and tree planting in South America, Africa and Asia.
The group also will invest $400 million in sustainable aviation fuel over the next 20 years. This includes British Airways’ partnership with specialist company Velocys to build Europe’s first household waste-to-jet fuel plant in the U.K., which will start operations in 2024. The plant will turn household waste destined for landfill into sustainable fuel, which produces 70% less CO2 emissions than fossil fuel.