Europe’s airlines are coalescing around a two-pronged response to a public backlash over carbon emissions.
Carriers initially plan to extend the use of offsets like tree planting to compensate for greenhouse-gas output while also embracing sustainable biofuels, executives from companies including Deutsche Lufthansa AG, EasyJet Plc and IAG SA’s British Airways arm said at a conference in Berlin.
A longer-term fix from the introduction of hybrid and fully-electric jetliners is unlikely to be available until the 2030s. Airlines are bracing for moves to slash emissions as new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen prepares to unveil a package dubbed the “Green New Deal.” So-called flight shaming is also taking root as campaigners including Greta Thunberg and groups such as Extinction Rebellion protest against air travel.
“Aviation will have to substantially reduce its carbon emissions if it wants to grow,” Filip Cornelis, the European Commission’s director for aviation, said at the International Air Transport Association’s Wings of Change conference in the German capital Wednesday. “That is the political reality in Europe today.”
The consensus around mitigation efforts is emerging as a continuing surge in global travel more than outweighs gains from more-efficient aircraft. The United Nations says aviation is set to overtake power generation as the single biggest emitter of CO2 within three decades.
EasyJet said Tuesday it will spend an estimated 25 million pounds ($32 million) on offset projects including afforestation with the objective of removing as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as its fleet emits.
Lufthansa plans to introduce automatic offsetting for corporate clients and will introduce an optional surcharge for “Sustainable Aviation Fuel” as it extends the use of kerosene alternatives produced from biomass and animal fats.
“The solution just has to be the use of synthetic fuels,” Carsten Spohr, the carrier’s chief executive officer, said at the Berlin event. “It’s the only vision I can see right now to really become CO2 neutral in the conceivable future.”
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