Features

Guide to airline carbon offset programmes

16 Sep 2021 by Tom Otley
Easyjet-offsetting-infographic

Most airlines now offer the opportunity for you to voluntarily offset your flight. Some airlines offer this at the time of booking, while many will give you the choice of doing so separately from the booking.

We have written previous articles on the subject of offsetting – see The Offset Debate.

Although the principle of offsetting is simple, the more you look into it, the more complicated it can become. To simplify matters, and also to give a diversity of voices, we have included the answers to some common questions under each one of the airlines listed below, with the information taken either from their website or the partner they are using for their carbon offsets.

This article rounds up what the airlines are currently offering. We will keep it updated as things change.

Air-France-Horizon-2030

Air France

Since the beginning of 2020, Air France has offset its domestic flights. It also offers passengers the chance to offset flights, both domestic and international, in partnership with A Tree for You , through the Tree and Trip programme,

The emissions calculator does not have options for specifying the cabin you are flying in, and the payment for offsetting is on the separate Trip and Tree site, and leaves it up to you how much to donate, rather than using the emissions calculator to suggest an amount.

From the site…

How many trees must be planted to offset a journey?

“A trip generates several types of environmental impact: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, especially CO2; pollutant emissions; an impact on territories through the footprint of ground infrastructure (roads, airports, ports…); an impact on the material resources used to manufacture vehicles and infrastructure; an impact on the energy used, etc. This is why the best trip for the environment is the one we can avoid!

“Looking at just the impact on CO2 emissions, you need two pieces of information to calculate how many trees to plant: the amount of CO2 emitted during the trip and the carbon capture capacity of the trees to be planted.”

“Put simply, 1 tree = about 100kg of CO2 captured over 10 years.”

Air France aims for sustainability

airfrance.com

Aer Lingus-offset-Leapfrog

Aer Lingus

Like British Airways, Aer Lingus is offering offsets through a partnership with Pure Leap Frog. The emissions calculator is separate from the booking procedure, though there is the intention to integrate it in future. Instead you go to the home page of the Pure Leapfrog Aer Lingus page and then enter your flight details, including the class you are flying in, select your preferred project (or all three of the ones on offer) and then pay for the offset.

From the site…

What is CO2eq?

“Emissions of greenhouse gases are typically expressed in a common metric so that their impacts can be directly compared, as some gases are more potent, i.e. have a higher global warming potential than others. The international standard practice is to express greenhouse gases in carbon dioxide equivalents.”

“Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) stands for a unit based on the global warming potential (GWP) of different greenhouse gases. The CO2eq unit measures the environmental impact of one tonne of these greenhouse gases in comparison to the impact of one tonne of CO2.”

aerlingus.com

American-Airlines-and-Cool-Effect

American Airlines

American Airlines has partnered with Cool Effect for its carbon offset programme. The emissions calculator is separate from the booking process and the offsets go towards one of three projects:

Mexico – preventing deforestation.

Indonesia – protecting and restoring peatlands.

Honduras – clean cookstoves

From the site…

How much does it cost to buy carbon credits in the voluntary market?

“More than 90 per cent of each dollar you donate goes directly to helping our projects, with a small fee of only 9.87 per cent to help us cover payment processing, research and scientific documentation, and possible registration fees. Here’s a breakdown:

  • 1.5 per cent Research Fee
  • 2–4 per cent Payment Processing Fee
  • Registry Fee (where applicable)
  • Remainder for Cool Effect Administration Fee

aa.com

British Airways Pure Leap Frog Melosheb-school-Zambia

British Airways

Like Aer Lingus, British Airways is offering offsets through a partnership with Pure Leap Frog. The emissions calculator is separate from the booking procedure, though there is the intention to integrate it in future. Instead you go to the home page of the Pure Leapfrog British Airways page and then enter your flight details, including the class you are flying in, select your preferred project (or all three of the ones on offer) and then pay for the offset.

UPDATE – September 7, 2021

There is now the option of selecting 10% SAF for flights.

From the site…

“When you purchase the option for 10% of your flight emissions to be reduced using SAF, British Airways will source the SAF quantity necessary to make 10% of your flight emissions carbon neutral. The remaining emissions will be reduced using our high-quality emission reduction projects to ensure your flight is carbon neutral overall. The CO2 emissions associated with the SAF you purchase will be allocated only to you and this will be audited for British Airways by an independent assurance company.”

“British Airways will not make a profit from any SAF payment received and will ensure that all funds go towards the cost of SAF supply and support for new sustainable fuel projects.”

“SAF is not presently produced in large volumes and many technologies are still under development, so the production costs are much higher than for conventional jet fuel. By selecting to purchase SAF, you are helping to accelerate the development of this new sustainable avenue for aviation as well as being one of the first in the world to have made their flight carbon neutral using SAF.”

Carbon offset calculator

The difference in pricing is considerable. As an example, a return flight from London to Hong Kong in business class will cost £24.10 to offset, and £151.79 to offset with 10% of emissions covered by SAF.

As far as charges levied are concerned, Pure Leapfrog says the following

“As a not-for-profit, Pure Leapfrog provides offsetting as a service. We seek to cover our costs and make a small contribution to our mission of helping communities to benefit from low carbon energy systems.”

“As part of covering our costs we charge a small handling fee to take account of transactional costs. Handling fee is 30p for transactions up to £10 and 50p for transactions above £10. This means that we also have a minimum offset charge of £1 to be sure these costs are covered alongside your offset purchase.”

“We track our transactional costs and the fees we charge and any ‘profit’ made on handling fees or minimum charges is passed to the British Airways Carbon Fund on a regular basis.”

Cathay-Pacific-Climate-Care

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific’s Fly Greener programme allows you to offset your flight.

From the site…

How do you calculate the volume of emissions from a flight?

“For every 1 kg of jet fuel burnt in the operational phase of the flight, approximately 3.15 kg of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. The total volume of fuel consumed on a flight depends on factors such as the distance travelled, wind speeds, the loading of passengers, baggage, and cargo on the aircraft. For our calculation methods, we use historic fuel consumption to derive carbon dioxide per passenger kilometre.”

cathaypacific.com

Delta-forest

Delta

Delta committed to be carbon neutral in March 2020, and so discontinued its consumer carbon offset programme. With regards to last year (2020) the airline says it is “addressing 13 million metric tons of its carbon dioxide emissions from March 1 to Dec. 31, 2020 through verified offsets”.

Delta’s offset projects include community-driven projects in Cambodia and Indonesia, “where protecting biodiversity goes hand-in-hand with helping local communities. These efforts promote sustainable livelihoods, conserve critically endangered species, support the preservation of indigenous communities’ culture and traditions, and maintain vital natural resources.”

Delta’s pledge to be the world’s first carbon neutral airline

delta.com

Easyjet offset

Easyjet

We shouldn’t, strictly, include Easyjet, since you can’t offset flights with them since it says it is already doing it for you. (You could always use one of the independent offset sites listed at the end of this article.)

Easyjet says that it pays (on our behalf) to offset with “… highest standard carbon offsetting projects, that meet either the Gold Standard or Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) accreditation. This means working with EcoAct and First Climate; companies that are globally recognised and respected for their standards of offsetting.”

The projects it supports include forest regeneration in South American and Africa, solar energy in India (Tamil Nadu) and in Uganda and Eritrea, helping provide access to clean water.

In its annual report, it says that in the financial year ending 2020 it ‘retired’ (paid for) “3.1 million carbon credits to offset carbon emissions from all fuel and operations” and these seem to have been with the Bale Mountains Eco-region REDD+ Project which is also known as the Oromia Forest and Wildlife Enterprise in Ethiopia which “will work to improve government and community partnerships on one hand and facilitate the development of community based local institution on the other to result in an improved forest ecosystem and landscape management in the Bale eco-region.”

From the site…

How do we calculate how much to offset?

“We will do this by calculating the total carbon equivalent using industry standard “global warming potential” values of each greenhouse gas, and multiplying them with estimated amounts of released NOx, methane, etc., which adds up to another 1-1.5% on top of the CO2 calculation. We then offset the total amount.”

Iberia-offset

Iberia

Iberia did have a voluntary offset programme, but with the onset of Covid-19 had to suspend it because of the low take-up during the pandemic and the IT costs. It does, however, still have a voluntary offset programme for enterprises (companies), and details of that can be found here (note that this is in Spanish).

The emission-offset project is in partnership with Climate Trade, and offsets emissions through a VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) certified reforestation project located in Peru.

JAL-Offset-blue-dot-green

JAL

The JAL Group has set up a partnership with Blue dot green Inc., for its offsets. The projects include

  • Logging Promotion Project in Oguni, Kumamoto prefecture
  • Deforestation prevention project in Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve, Indonesia
  • Logging Promotion Project of 4 towns in Hokkaido
  • Improving hygiene environment by investing to water infrastructure in Africa

JAL Carbon Offsets are available from “Reservation Confirmation” page when booking International tickets.

jal.bluedotgreen.co.jp/en/home

Isle of Barra, Scotland, UK - Recently arrived passengers walking on the beach from the Loganair operated Twin Otter plane, having landed at Barra Airport. At low tide, the beach is used as the airport's runway on the Outer Hebridean island.

Loganair

Loganair has added a £1 carbon offset fee to all ticket prices as part of the carrier’s plans to become carbon neutral by 2040.

The airline has launched a new “Green Skies” environmental programme which it says makes it “the first UK regional airline to take such an ambitious step towards managing and mitigating the environmental impact of flying”.

The non-optional fee will be included in the ticket price, with the carrier stating that “By harnessing the collective power of everyone flying with Loganair, carbon neutral flying can be achieved through the offset programme at a practical and modest cost per passenger”.

The airline says its new carbon offset programme will be “the first of its kind in the UK to directly relate the cost of flying to its environmental impact”.

Loganair said that funds raised through the new charge would be invested in initiatives including reforestation projects and wind farms, and later this year the carrier also plans to establish a new fund “to provide grants to help with the cost of establishing renewable energy projects in the communities that it serves”.

Ironically, these projects are not in Scotland. As Loganair says

“It’s vital that our carbon offset programme is accredited to the highest international standards so our customers can have full confidence in it.   The EU rules (now adopted by the UK) for carbon offsets mean that de-carbonisation programmes such as the many excellent re-forestation projects in Scotland do not quality for under these accreditation schemes at this time.  We don’t agree with this, but we can’t change the rules set by the Government.

If the rules change in future, we’d be only too pleased to add environmental projects in Loganair’s heartlands to our programme.”

 

Lufthansa-offset

Lufthansa

Lufthansa launched its voluntary carbon offset programme in a partnership with Compensaid, an independent offsetting site. (Swiss has done the same – see below).

Lufthansa launches Compensaid carbon offset platform

The advantage of this approach is that it allows for a more nuanced and sophisticated approach to offsetting. The CO₂ calculator provided by the climate protection organisation, myclimate, helps you to calculate your journey’s carbon footprint with the result based on the fuel consumption of the Lufthansa fleet.

Compensaid then offers “two options for offsetting: through the use of CO₂-neutral, synthetic jet fuel and through reforestation projects. With the purchase of innovative sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), the emissions can be captured immediately as SAF causes up to 80 per cent less CO₂ in comparison to conventional jet fuel. Reforestation projects, in contrast, capture the CO₂ resulting from flights over a longer period.”

Qatar Airways Fatanpur-1

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways launched its voluntary carbon offset programme at the end of 2020. We wrote a very detailed piece on it which you can read here.

Qatar Airways launches voluntary carbon offset programme for passengers

Scoot Airlines

Singapore Airlines and Scoot

The Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group has launched a voluntary carbon offset programme. The programme allows customers on both Singapore Airlines and Scoot to offset their carbon emissions via dedicated microsites. For the first six months from the launch of the programme, the two airlines will also match the offsets.

SIA says that the offset projects selected are ‘high-quality carbon offset projects [which] have a proven and measurable impact on communities and the environment.” The projects include

The dedicated microsite for customers will be available in late July 2021, with corporate customers able to participate in the programme from the fourth quarter of 2021. There will also be the ability to use  KrisFlyer miles and HighFlyer points to offset emissions, starting in the fourth quarter of 2021.

The offsets will be provided via the BlueHalo digital solution, which has been developed by Australia-based Tasman Environmental Markets (TEM). This allows customers to immediately calculate and offset the emissions associated with their journey.

Carbon emissions can be offset from either of the following two microsites:

https://carbonoffset.singaporeair.com.sg
https://carbonoffset.flyscoot.com

Swiss-offset

Swiss

As with Lufthansa, Swiss has a partnership with Compensaid. You can offset the flight with Sustainable Aviation Fuel, or by contributing towards a reforestation project in Nicaragua.

From the site…

How does this work exactly?

“We will transfer the contribution of your money less administrative and transactional costs to our partner myclimate, so the community in Nicaragua gets the most out of your contribution.”

swiss.compensaid.com

Thai-Airways-carbon-offset

Thai Airways

Thai Airways uses the IATA-administered carbon offset program at the time of purchase of tickets. The option includes automatically calculating the amount of CO2 emitted for that particular flight and the related cost for the offset. The amount is then contributed to Kamphaeng Saen East Landfill Gas to Electricity hosted by Bangkok Greenpower Co.,  Ltd. a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects Certified Emission  Reductions (CERs)

United

United now offers the option of purchasing SAF (not offsetting your flight). It uses “your donation to purchase additional SAF or to invest in promising SAF producers we believe can move us one step closer to flying sustainably.”

“How does it work?

  1. We’ll collect your donation in a designated SAF account.
  2. At the end of the year, we’ll total the amount of donations, so be sure to check back to see how much we raised.
  3. United will use 100 per cent of the donations for the future purchase of SAF and/or SAF-blended products, or to invest in SAF development.”

united.com

Wizz Air

Wizz Air has launched a voluntary carbon offset scheme. You can read more about it here

Wizz Air launches carbon offsetting scheme

TIST-Offset

Independent sites

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of sites which will offset your emissions, for travel, for your household and for your purchases.

The list here is not comprehensive, and it does not recommend these organisations. Note that there is a strong argument that donating directly to charities which help those affected by climate change is the best way to spend your money. Carbon offsetting involves buying carbon credits and then ‘retiring’ them. As the Financial Times points out “The voluntary offsets market is… fragmented and lacks consistent best practice guidance. A number of standard setting bodies exist, such as Verra and Gold Standard, which have different rules and methodologies.” Nevertheless, the market is growing each year, and Mark Carney believes the market for them could be worth $100 million by 2030. (You can read more about this here The Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets)

Taskforce-on-Scaling-Voluntary-Carbon-markets

You should also ask how much money is going towards the project. trees4travel, for instance, says that of the money donated for an offset, “67% tree planting & distribution, 18% development & income, 15% overheads.” Pure Leapfrog says “Handling fee is 30p for transactions up to £10 and 50p for transactions above £10. This means that we also have a minimum offset charge of £1 to be sure these costs are covered alongside your offset purchase.”

bulb

Works out your carbon footprint including your gas, electricity, what you buy and how much of it.

compensaid

A sophisticated calculator that also offers the chance to offset your travel by purchasing SAF – which is very expensive, but much closer to what the true price of our travels is.

Fly Green

Fly Green is an online booking engine that offsets the flights you buy through it using part of its commission.

myclimate

Myclimate’s calculator also offers the chance to work out your complete carbon footprint, or just your travel footprint.

trees4travel

Dedicated travel offset site. Recommended by the Business Travel Association for its members.

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