Easyjet has announced that it will offset carbon emissions from the fuel used on all of its flights, making it the first major airline to operate net-zero carbon emission flights across its fleet.
The budget airline said it would do this by investing in accredited carbon-offsetting schemes, including renewable and community-based projects. Carbon offsetting works by providing funds to projects that reduce CO2 emissions elsewhere in order to compensate for emissions produced. For every tonne of carbon produced, carbon offsetting aims to eliminate one tonne by, for example, planting trees or generating solar energy.
Environmental groups have given the move a frosty welcome, however, with Friends of the Earth telling newswire AFT that carbon offsetting was not a "silver bullet", while Greenpeace called the news as "jumbo-size greenwash".
The airline said carbon offsetting was "only an interim measure" while new technologies were being developed that would enable it to "reinvent and de-carbonise aviation over the long term". It said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with aircraft manufacturer Airbus related to a joint research project on hybrid and electric aircraft.
"Climate change is an issue for all of us," Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s chief executive, said.
"We acknowledge that offsetting is only an interim measure until other technologies become available to radically reduce the carbon emissions of flying, but we want to take action on carbon now.
"People have a choice in how they travel and people are now thinking about the potential carbon impact of different types of transport. But many people still want to fly; and if people choose to fly, we want to be one of the best choices they can make."
Airlines are coming under increasing pressure to reduce the environmental impact of flying. In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates, said he admired Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, and that airlines were doing themselves no favours "by chucking billions of tons of carbon into the air". He added: "It's got to be dealt with."