EasyJet will stop offsetting the CO2 emissions of its aircraft as it unveiled a “roadmap to net zero” emissions by 2050, including the introduction of hydrogen-powered jet engines.
Other elements of easyJet’s new strategy include the use of sustainable aviation fuel, more fuel-efficient aircraft and carbon capture to achieve the goal.
EasyJet insisted this was the airline’s most ambitious plan to tackle emissions yet, while continuing to work with companies on research into new technologies.
The airline signed a three-year deal at the end of 2019 to offset all of its CO22 emissions – a world first and a move that reportedly cost the airline around £25m a year at the time, but was seen by some as greenwashing the environmental damage caused by its passenger planes.
Last year, a joint Guardian investigation revealed that major airlines, including easyJet, were using unreliable ‘phantom’ carbon credits to claim their flights were carbon neutral. According to the billing logic, this is CO2 Emissions from aviation are theoretically offset by paying to stop emissions elsewhere, such as those from deforestation.
EasyJet said it would no longer pay offsets for bookings made after December. It has not disclosed the sums it ultimately paid for the disputed compensation payments, but said it will “not invest less” to make flying greener and more sustainable.
At a launch event on Monday at easyJet’s Luton airport headquarters, its partner Rolls-Royce showed off a hydrogen-powered jet engine and said it was making “rapid progress towards hydrogen-burning ground tests”.
EasyJet plans to curb CO2 emissions by 35% by 2035 as part of its new roadmap and said the steps it is taking have been validated by the Science-Based Targets initiative.
The most significant imminent reduction of about 15% of current emissions would come from fleet replacement of conventional kerosene-fuelled aircraft.
EasyJet has ordered 168 more A320neos from Airbus and the manufacturer will also retrofit the existing fleet with technology to optimize flight descent and fuel consumption.
easyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said the plan had a “level of detail and granularity” that set it apart from similar aviation announcements – although the roadmap was partly based on plans such as airspace modernisation, which require government action, which it does not gave forthcoming in a decade.
Lundgren added: “We have already reduced our CO2 emissions per passenger per kilometer over a 20-year period since 2000, which is a significant acceleration of our decarbonization.
“Today, we are the first airline to outline an ambitious roadmap in which zero-carbon emissions technology plays a key role to lead us to net-zero emissions and ultimately zero-carbon flights across our fleet by 2050 .”
The airline believes it can reduce its own emissions by 78% by 2050, with carbon capture technology enabling it to reach net zero.
Although Lundgren opposed the compensation, he insisted it was “the right thing to do” but was “only ever a temporary measure”. He added: “We’ve been saying all along that we want to move to technologies that reduce our carbon intensity from our direct operations, that’s our main goal.”
The Guardian investigation with Unearthed, Greenpeace’s investigative arm, found that the carbon credits were based on complicated and unreliable hypothetical calculations of avoided deforestation, which experts warned were not real emissions reductions. The results were heavily criticized by Verra, the carbon offset standard that approved the credits.
In another possible step toward zero-emissions flights, Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace announced Monday that it conducted the first hover test flight of its VX4 prototype electric plane over the weekend.
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