Wednesday 16 October 2019

Aer Lingus will be early adopter of green jet fuel

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh. Photo: Bloomberg
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh. Photo: Bloomberg
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Aer Lingus owner IAG will explore the use of sustainable jet fuels at the Irish carrier as part of a major new initiative to make the airline group net neutral in carbon emissions by 2050, according to chief executive Willie Walsh.

Mr Walsh also welcomed the decision by the Irish Government to ringfence revenues raised from carbon taxes for use in climate action projects.

"The Taoiseach talked about hypothecating some of the carbon tax for environmental purposes, and we've argued that that's what governments should do," he said.

IAG, which also owns British Airways, Iberia, Vueling and Level, is investing in a new UK-based facility that will convert household waste - which could include waste generated by its own airlines - into jet fuel.

The airline group could also invest in similar plants elsewhere in the future, said Mr Walsh.

Speaking at London's Heathrow Airport, he declined to say how much equity IAG had invested in the new plant, which is being built in conjunction with specialist firm Velocys. However, he said IAG will invest $400m (€364.4m) in sustainable aviation fuel over the next 20 years.

Mr Walsh, a former Aer Lingus chief executive, said the airline would be able to reduce its carbon emissions, despite expanding, partly via new aircraft.

Aer Lingus has considerably expanded its transatlantic network since it was acquired by IAG in 2015.

"We'll be looking at sustainable fuels for Aer Lingus as well," he said. "It's not just a BA [British Airways] initiative."

The airline group was instrumental in establishing the United Nations' first global carbon offsetting scheme, Corsia, which aims to see the global aviation industry cut its carbon emissions by 2.5 billion tonnes between 2020 and 2035.

The global aviation industry was responsible for about 2pc of worldwide carbon emissions last year.

"I think aviation has been a fantastic development," said Mr Walsh.

"People being able to travel, see the world, travel for work; it clearly has generated huge economic value for the world. With that economic value comes an economic cost.

"What we've got to do is ensure that we can secure the economic contribution that aviation makes, and address the environmental impact, and we believe we can."

As part of its emission reduction efforts, British Airways will offset carbon emissions for all its UK domestic flights from next year.

The carrier will achieve this by investing in "verified carbon reduction projects", equivalent to the carbon emissions it generates on its domestic flights.

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