No-frills US airline JetBlue will go carbon neutral for all domestic flights starting this summer, the company announced on Monday.
The carrier said it will be the first major US airline to do so in a bid to reduce its contributions to global warming.
The company also said it would begin using “sustainable aviation fuel” on flights from San Francisco later this year.
“We reduce where we can and offset where we can’t,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in the statement.
Offsets are investments in things like planting trees or renewable energy, which reduce or consume carbon and effectively cancel out other emissions elsewhere.
While it is “not a silver bullet”, Hayes said that “by offsetting all of our domestic flying, we’re preparing our business for the lower-carbon economy that aviation – and all sectors – must plan for.”
Commercial aviation reportedly accounts for about two per cent of all carbon emissions worldwide. The industry in 2009 pledged to cut emissions in half by 2050, but according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation, fuel consumption is instead set to triple by then.
Research by the Rhodium Group shows US greenhouse gas emissions rose in 2018 for the first time in three years, due in large part to demand for jet fuel.
Wind farms and landfills
Consumers increasingly are aware of the environmental damage air travel does, and the “flight shaming” movement encourages adherents to forgo air travel to reduce carbon emissions.
JetBlue says it is relying on an existing partnership with Carbonfund.org, as well as the companies EcoAct and South Pole to reach its new goal.
The air carrier says it will support such things as solar and wind-powered electricity farms, the capture of gas from landfill and forestry projects, among others, to offset an additional seven to eight million metric tonnes in emissions each year – representing the company’s entire carbon footprint from aviation.
The airline told AFP it also already has a corporate plan to cover most international flights but JetBlue primarily operates domestically.
JetBlue is not the first airline to announce carbon offset programmes. In the US, Delta and United currently offset some emissions. In Europe, Air France announced last month all domestic flights would be carbon neutral as of January 1, 2020. British budget airline EasyJet said in November it would offset emissions for its entire network.
And though declining to disclose the programme’s cost, JetBlue said the travelling public would not be squeezed.
“This will not affect airfares. This is the cost of doing business,” a spokesperson said.
Critics have said some carbon offset projects often fail to deliver the emissions reductions they promise, with forests marked for preservation in fact suffering deforestation while those who have purchased credits continue to pollute.
JetBlue said the carbon offset projects it selects are independently audited and verified, and are designed to avoid double-counting and over-estimation.