National carrier Qantas (ASX: QAN) has outlined its plans to reduce carbon emissions by 25 per cent over the next eight years in a climate action plan released today.
To reduce pollution the airliner is investing $50 million into developing a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry, with plans to have 10 per cent of it in the group’s fuel mix by 2030 and 60 per cent by 2050.
Other measures to reach net-zero by 2050 include reducing waste, implementing more renewable energy and upgrading aircraft fleet.
“We’ve had a zero net emissions goal for several years, so today’s interim targets are about accelerating our progress and cutting emissions as quickly as technology allows,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said.
According to the Air Transport Action Group, the aviation industry accounts for 12 per cent of all carbon emissions produced by transport.
“Aviation is a crucial industry, especially in a country the size of Australia. Having a clear plan to decarbonise Qantas and Jetstar so we can keep delivering these services in the decades ahead is absolutely key to our future,” Joyce said.
“Hydrogen or electric powered aircraft are several decades away, particularly for the length of most flights, so our plan is focused on the technology that is within reach today.”
“One benefit of setting these targets now is sending a clear signal that we’re in the market for large volumes of sustainable aviation fuel, for carbon offset projects and for products that can be recycled. That will hopefully encourage more investment and build more momentum for the industry as a whole,” Joyce said.
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)
SAF - which is made from sustainable biogenic sources like used cooking oils, council waste, plant oils, agricultural residues and non-biological sources - has the potential to reduce lifecycle emissions by up to 80 per cent compared to jet fuel.
In December 2021, Qantas became one of the first Australian airlines to purchase SAF on an ongoing basis for scheduled services out of London. The move represents up to 15 per cent of the group’s fuel needs out of Heathrow Airport and reduces carbon emissions for the route by 10 per cent.
Since then, the airline has also agreed to use SAF for its operations from California (including Los Angeles and San Francisco) from 2025.
The group is calling on greater investment into the SAF industry from the federal government, and projects working collaboratively could create more than 7,400 Australian jobs and contribute $2.8 billion in GDP per year by 2030.
“Responding to climate change is a big challenge, but we will get there,” Joyce said.
“Partnerships with industry and all levels of government are going to be key to create the supply chains we need, and customers will have a role to play as well in supporting more sustainable options.
The national carrier is aiming to have zero single-use plastics on aircraft by 2027. This will see every Qantas or Jetstar flight use compostable or recyclable packaging, with the exception of items necessary for health and safety.
Before COVID-19 struck, Qantas committed to the removal of 100 million single-use plastics by 2021. While the initiative was temporarily paused, the group expects to reach the target by next year.
The group is also working to eliminate general waste from its flights, lounges and offices within the next eight years - with the exception of quarantine waste, which is highly regulated and offers limited diversion pathways.
From this year, all of the group’s Australian buildings will be powered by 100 per cent renewable electricity.
The milestone comes after Qantas partnered with Lightsource BP to procure large-scale generation certificates (LGCs) from Wellington Solar Farm.
Now, the airliner is looking at implementing renewable energy sources overseas and onsite renewable sources for long-term domestic supply.
Investing in carbon offset projects since 2007, the group has counteracted more than 3 million tonnes of carbon through a combination of group, customer and corporate initiatives – of which 21 per cent came from Australian projects.
One case study is the Thiaki Rainforest Restoration Project, which aims to restore long-cleared pasture in the wet tropics region of Far North Queensland. The project is endeavouring to preserve species such as the Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo, ringtail possums and 13 native bird species.
In addition to improving operations, the group is also modernising its fleet with newer and more fuel-efficient aircraft.
In December last year, Qantas announced Airbus would become the preferred supplier of future narrowbody aircraft. Pending board approval, the Airbus 220 and Airbus 320NEO will replace Boeing 717s and Boeing 737s in current domestic operations.
The group is also looking to fly Airbus A350 in ‘Project Sunrise’ – which will see direct carbon neutral flights from the east coast of Australia to London and New York.
The fleet overhaul will also see Jetstar introduce the first of 18 Airbus A321NEO-LR aircraft in July, which are around 15 per cent more fuel efficient compared to the current fleet in operation.
These 18 new planes will replace a significant chunk of Jetstar’s fleet over the next two years in both domestic and short-haul international (Bali and Fiji) markets.
The climate action plan comes as Qantas customers have slammed the carrier for poor service and long call centre wait times on social media.
On several Twitter posts, people reported waiting on the phone for more than three hours to get a hold of a representative.
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