Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker
Tue 28 Apr 2009 – Qatar Airways has signed an agreement with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to offer its passengers an opportunity to offset the carbon emissions of their flights. The Middle East carrier is the first to announce it is to join IATA’s new carbon offset programme. Three other airlines, so far unnamed, have signed Memorandums of Understanding with IATA, one of which is expected to be the first to go live in early June. IATA says it hopes to have around 14 airlines in the programme by year end.
Under the programme, the airline partner runs the scheme from its own website but uses IATA’s financial services to manage the back-end processing of the offset purchases and allows IATA to track carbon offset purchases in a code share or interline context.
IATA spokesman Quentin Browell said a carbon calculator has been developed that is based on the methodology released last year by ICAO that allows airlines to input their own fuel burn data and load factors. “Other calculators are based on efficiencies and modelling but we decided this was inappropriate when airlines already had this data, many of which from next year will have the data independently verified for emissions trading purposes,” he told GreenAir Online.
Browell said there were around 30 different airline carbon offset schemes “of varying quality” in operation. “Many passengers are sceptical and confused about offsetting and some of these schemes haven’t really seen significant passenger uptake,” he explained. “That is why IATA is setting up a standardized scheme for interested airlines.”
IATA is currently identifying appropriate projects through reputable offset providers. “Most airlines have indicated a preference for UN-compliant CERs (Certified Emission Reductions), but a couple of airlines have said they would like to support high quality VERs (Voluntary Emissions Reduction) which have a high sustainable development benefit,” said Browell.
“We are currently discussing with the UK Government whether the IATA programme could be accredited under its Quality Assurance Scheme for Carbon Offsetting (see article), which will validate both our carbon calculation methodology and the projects. At the moment, the QA Scheme only allows CERs, not VERs, to carry its logo and we are currently in the process of making a decision on whether we proceed with this independent validation of our programme.”
British Airways is so far the only airline to have its passenger carbon offsetting scheme approved by the UK Quality Assurance Scheme.
Last year, IATA published a set of guidelines and toolkit (which can be downloaded from its website) for airlines setting up their own carbon offsetting scheme.
Qatar Airways hopes to go live with its scheme in around four month’s time. The carrier’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, said the carbon offset scheme was a further step by the airline to forge ahead with its environmentally-friendly programme.
“Qatar Airways is committed to engaging, creating and developing CSR programmes in the interests of the environment and the people who fly with us,” he commented.
“Society worldwide is becoming ever more conscious of the impact of climate change on our daily lives. It has affected, is affecting and will continue to affect the world – and the onus is very much on the corporate world to ensure we strive towards zero carbon emissions to make the world a safer and cleaner place.
“Much has been documented by environmental groups and industry bodies over the years about the impact the aviation industry is having on society, and we must collectively address these as practically as possible.”
Al Baker said that the airline was investing heavily in new, modern and cleaner aircraft “in a concerted effort to keep the carbon emission count at its minimum and, in doing so, reduce the impact on the environment.”
He added: “Through this scheme which Qatar Airways is engaging with IATA, we will be able to give passengers the choice to join us in helping fund projects around the world that need our help to ensure livelihoods are safeguarded and communities are sustained.”
The airline says passengers will be able to select from a range of named international environmental projects to support.
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