IAG has announced the 2050 net-zero target alongside a $400m (£332m) funding pool for sustainable aviation fuels that will be deployed over the next 20 years.
The airline’s target aligns to the Paris Agreement objective of limiting global heating to no more than 1.5C and will assist with the UK Government’s net-zero target, also set for 2050.
Part of this target will be delivered by British Airways, which will become the first UK airline to offset carbon emissions on flights within the UK from January 2020. The airline operates up to 75 flights a day.
British Airways’ chairman and chief executive, Alex Cruz said: “British Airways is determined to play its part in reducing aviation’s CO2 emissions. To solve such a multi-faceted issue requires a multi-faceted response and this initiative further demonstrates our commitment to a sustainable future.”
As the second-largest UK airline, British Airways was the first to establish an internal environment team in the 1990s; the first to set up carbon trading in 2002; and, in 2009, pushed for an industry-wide target of reducing emissions by 50% by 2050.
Aviation currently accounts for 2% of all global carbon emissions, and 12% of the transport sector's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, the need to accelerate the transition to sustainable aviation is clear, with recent research revealing that flights will generate around 43 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions by 2050 – more than 4% of the world’s entire remaining carbon budget.
British Airways has made relatively strong progress to decarbonise its operations and flights. Emissions have been lowered by more than 360,000 tonnes since 2014 by focusing on an array of solutions, including reducing the number of engines used to taxi, optimising flight routes, and decreasing the weight of aircraft and in-flight items such as magazines. The airline had also invested in more than 550 efficient airport vehicles for ground staff and operations, replacing diesel tugs in the process.
More recently, the airline and Shell have provided funding totalling £2.8m to support the development of a UK-based facility that could produce 20 million gallons of sustainable jet fuel annually.
The two companies are supporting renewable fuel developer Velocys with funding in order to take the next step for a planned facility in Immingham, Lincolnshire. Velocys hopes to have the facility operational in the 2020s in order to produce 20 million gallons of alternative and sustainable jet fuel annually.