Skift Take

British Airlines owner IAG says all the right things about supporting innovation to combat climate change, but with a net zero C02 emission pledge by 2050, it doesn't appear to be in an existential hurry.

Don’t blame airlines for the climate mess — the blame is widely shared, and collaboration will be required for solutions.

That was the message from Elke Dens, global director of programs at the Travel Foundation, who took part in a discussion centered on “An Action Plan for Sustainability” during a session Thursday at Skift Forum Europe in London. Skift Global Tourism Reporter Lebawit Lily Girma led the discussion with Dens and Dupsy Abiola, head of global innovation, IAG, the owner of British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, Level, and Vueling.

“There is no toolbox, there is no checklist,” Dens said, as a way to craft solutions to combat climate change, and destinations should break out of their comfort zones to reach out to local farmers, hotels and city councils to get started on solutions.

Collaboration is key, she said, and every situation is different.

The Travel Foundation, based in the UK, has been working with multiple players, including Visit Scotland, on sustainability programs.

Abiola of IAG said the airline group is deploying a variety of means to test and scale solutions, and is looking to support a wide variety of entities and to become an enabler of emerging technologies to back sustainability efforts. 

IAG states it is committed to making investments in aircraft to pursue operational efficiency, and to accelerate use of low-carbon planes and other climate-friendly technologies.

The airline group has committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Using “nudging techniques” can really help to influence positive behavior regarding sustainability, Dens said.

For example, hotels can provide information about the cost of housekeeping and how much water is used to clean a room and wash towels, Dens said. And offering guests a free drink can spur them to forego housekeeping, she added.

Dens predicted that fighting climate change will be a transformative experience, leading to the creation of “good jobs,” and showing that travel can be a force for good.

Watch the Full Session

Tags: british airways, climate change, hotels, iag, sfe2022, skift forum europe, skift live, sustainability

Photo credit: IAG owns British Airways. Russell Harper Photography / Skift