Qatar Airways launches voluntary carbon offset programme for passengers

8 Nov 2020 by Tom Otley

Qatar Airways has launched a voluntary carbon offset programme for passengers, with a new partnership with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Climate Care.

All contributions received through the programme will be directed via Climate Care to the Fatanpur Wind Farm project in India.

As with other similar programmes run by airlines, passengers can voluntarily offset the carbon emissions associated with their journey at the point of booking.

Booking information, including information regarding the carbon offset programme, is available in multiple languages including Arabic, Chinese (classic), Chinese (traditional), Croatian, Czech, English, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

The programme is built on a partnership with IATA’s carbon offset programme  which “provides the assurance that the credits bought to offset these emissions are from projects delivering independently verified carbon reductions as well as wider environmental and social benefits”.

Qatar Airways Fatanpur-1

The Fatanpur Wind Farm project in India has installed wind turbine generators (WTGs) with a combined output of 108 MW to generate and supply clean electricity to the Indian National Grid.

The project consists of 54 wind turbines, installed in and around the villages of Taluk Dewas, Tonkkhurd and Tarana Taluk in the Dewas and Ujjain districts of Madhya Pradesh.

The turbines displace electricity generated from fossil fuel sources from the Indian grid, reducing the overall carbon intensity and leading to emissions reductions. This project avoids 210,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, although this year there have been exceptionally low wind speeds across India, with operator Vena Energy measuring a record low wind speed in July 2020, representing a 40 per cent decline compared to its expectations. (Vena Energy)

Climate Care Director of Partnerships, Mr. Robert Stevens, said: “We are pleased to be working alongside Qatar Airways and IATA to retire high quality, independently verified carbon credits on behalf of Qatar Airways’ customers who want to take responsibility for the environmental impact of their flights.

“Their support for the Fatanpur project not only reduces global carbon emissions, it also provides employment opportunities; delivers improved education through providing materials and expertise to nearby schools; and supports a mobile medical unit – enabling improved healthcare to the local community.”

IATA’s Carbon Offset Programme has been approved by the independent audit organization Quality Assurance Standard (QAS), which assesses how organisations calculate emissions, select offset projects and how they communicate this information to their customers. IATA is one of only four organisations worldwide to meet this standard.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, said: “We are pleased to be able to offer our customers the opportunity to offset the carbon emissions associated with their journeys with us. As an environmentally responsible airline, our modern fleet of technologically advanced aircraft, together with our fuel-efficiency programme, combine to optimise aircraft performance and reduce the environmental impact of flying. Our customers can now help to further minimise their environmental footprint by opting to contribute to our carbon offset programme.”

IATA Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, said: “There is no alternative to aviation when it comes to long distance travel and carbon offsetting is an immediate, direct and pragmatic means of limiting the impact of climate change.”

As an example of the cost of using the offset feature on Qatar Airways, Business Traveller made a test booking from London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur via Doha in business class. The cost of the offset was £14.00.

QR Cost-of-offset

What are Carbon Offsets?

The following explanations are from IATA’s fact sheet on carbon offsetting.

A carbon offset is a compensating equivalent. As an activity, it can mean to balance, cancel out or neutralize.

In the context of addressing climate change, offsetting is an action by companies or individuals to compensate for carbon emissions, in this case arising from their use of commercial aviation services. The offset can be equivalent in part or in whole to the associated emissions, by financing a reduction in emissions elsewhere.

How does Offsetting work?

When an activity like air travel produces CO2 emissions, these emissions can be compensated – or offset – by preventing or reducing a similar amount of emission elsewhere. This compensation can be performed by the airlines itself or by its passengers.

The offsets can be sourced from various types of project activities and can be purchased through specialized offset providers or carbon brokers. The buyer then receives a certificate or record from the seller providing details about the project and the amount of CO2 reduced.

The market for carbon credits is regulated through international, regional and sub-national carbon reduction schemes, such as the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) and the California Carbon Market.

Each ton of CO2 is measured in carbon credits or CERs (Certified Emission Reductions). These CERs are generated in the implementation phase of the project; and are issued once the reduction has been credited. CERs are tradable credits earned by a country or developer for investing in projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated that India has some 750 million CERs which it has generated in recent years, and which remain unsold.

A further complication is that there is both a mandatory market which is used by companies and governments that are legally mandated to offset their emissions, where CERs are traded, and a voluntary carbon market. This voluntary market operates outside the compliance markets, but in parallel, allowing private companies and individuals to purchase carbon offsets on a voluntary basis, the unit for which is Verified Emission Reductions (VERs). The offsets being offered by Qatar Airways (and other airlines) are VERs. For more information see the Voluntary market and mandatory carbon credit market.

IATA has a diagram to illustrate the process:


Carbon offsets are controversial for a number of reasons – to read more see our recent article

The Offset Debate

One criticism is over the issue of additionality. This is a complex area, but put simply it means that for the project to be an effective source of offset credits, it should offer some “extra benefit” that would not otherwise have been created were it not for the project.

Business Traveller asked Climate Care about the Fatanpur Wind Farm, which was constructed some years ago and which has a contract with the local government for 25 years to generate electricity at a fixed price into the local grid.

Climate Care said the following,

“Every project that Climate Care works with will hold additionality as a fundamental criterion in the verification process. This means that projects must be able to demonstrate to multiple third parties, in this case VERRA and a further independent auditor, that all emissions reductions are above and beyond what would have occurred had the project not been carried out and had carbon finance not been utilised.

“Carbon offsets at the Fatanpur Wind Project in India enable renewable energy production which under the baseline scenario was financially unviable in the region due to comparatively low-priced fossil-based energy sources.”

With regard to the issue of VERs, Climate Care confirmed that “The credits that will be retired from this specific project will be of vintage pre 2020.”

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