The owner of Aer Lingus and British Airways said it will achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, becoming the first major airline group to make such a commitment.
The aviation industry is under intense pressure from climate change activists. IAG said it would achieve its target with steps such as carbon offsetting for British Airways’ domestic flights from 2020, investing in sustainable aviation fuel and replacing older aircraft with more efficient jets over the next five years.
“We’re investing in new aircraft and innovative technology to reduce our carbon footprint in an industry where there’s no current alternative to jet fuel,” IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said in a statement.
IAG said the steps would help the airline contribute both to Britain’s goal for a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 and a United Nations objective to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Protesters say cheap and easy short-haul flying will make it impossible for Britain and other countries to meet its climate goals and will have dire consequences for the world.
Mr Walsh said that aviation represented only 2% of global CO2 emissions, and that the airline group’s steps were one part of a broader solution to make aviation less polluting.
“Aviation’s dependency on fossil fuels means that it’s essential that governments support its efforts to decarbonize by providing incentives to accelerate investment in new technologies,” he said.
“Global warming needs a global solution and all these initiatives will help limit the world’s temperature increase to 1.5 degrees,” he said. IAG also owns Vueling and Iberia.
Meanwhile, Shell said it would offset the carbon dioxide emissions of around 1.5m road users in Britain starting later this month under a loyalty scheme.
Sinead Lynch, Shell UK country chair, said the best way for people to cut their road emissions was to use electric vehicles, supplied with renewable power.
From October 17, emissions relating to fuel purchased by customers with the Shell Go+ app or card will be offset for free until September 2020. Shell said about 20% of its customers were registered with the loyalty scheme.
It expects the programme to cost roughly £10m (€11m) and offset emissions from around 1.5m cars.
Carbon offsetting involves helping to fund a cut in emissions elsewhere, such as through preventing deforestation. Some climate groups say offsetting should be used as a last resort and that absolute emission cuts should be the priority. Shell said it would use carbon credits from conservation projects in Peru, Indonesia, the US, and Britain. Most of the credits that will be used for the scheme have already been bought, Shell said, but it did not disclose the purchase price.