EasyJet (ESYJY) announced Tuesday that it will begin offsetting emissions from its fleet of 331 planes immediately, becoming the first major airline in the world to operate net zero carbon flights. “From today onwards, easyJet will make all flights net zero carbon,” it said in a statement.
The British budget airline said it expects to spend £25 million ($32.4 million) over the next year compensating “for every tonne of CO2 emitted from fuel used for its flights, by ensuring there is one tonne less in the atmosphere.”
To do that it will invest in programs to remove CO2 from the air — for example by planting more trees — that have been certified to deliver carbon reductions that would not otherwise have happened, or that do not inadvertently lead to an increase in emissions elsewhere.
“We recognize that offsetting is only an interim measure, but we want to take action on our carbon emissions now,” EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said in a statement. “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, to reinvent aviation.”
EasyJet, Europe’s fifth biggest airline, says it has reduced the amount of carbon it emits for every kilometer each passenger flies by more than one-third since 2000 by using more fuel efficient aircraft and loading planes to the maximum possible.
It has a partnership with Airbus (EADSF) to research hybrid and electric aircraft that could be introduced on European short-haul flights. It is also working with companies like Wright Electric, Rolls Royce (RYCEY) and Safran (SAFRF) on electric planes and other clean technology.
Airlines are under increasing pressure to take urgent action as rising global awareness about the climate crisis poses ever greater risks to their business. Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist, helped popularize a social media hashtag in her native Sweden that translates to “flight shame.”
Environmental activists argue that global aviation emissions are rising fast, and if the industry were a country, it would rank among the top 10 emitters. In addition to CO2, aircraft emit nitrogen oxides, which contribute to global warming.
European carriers appear to be taking the lead in tackling their carbon footprint. International Airlines Group (ICAGY) (IAG), which is Europe’s third biggest aviation group and owns British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia, pledged last month that it will eliminate or offset all carbon emissions from its fleet by 2050.
British Airways will also invest in solar energy products and planting trees in South America, Africa and Asia in order to offset its carbon emissions from next year onwards, the company said.
— Charles Riley contributed to this report