CANBERRA: Qantas Airways pledged on Monday (Nov 11) to slash its carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, which it said would make it only the second airline to do so, as a global push to combat climate change gathered momentum.
"We're doing this because it's the responsible thing to do," Qantas' Chief Executive Alan Joyce said in a statement, calling climate change concerns "real".
Australia's national carrier said it was looking to cap net emissions at 2020 levels and will invest A$50 million (US$34.3 million) over 10 years to develop sustainable fuel.
Australia's national carrier has already experimented by flying a plane from Los Angeles to Melbourne using mustard seed biofuel.
"So we know the technology's possible," Joyce told Australian Broadcasting Corp. "It's to actually do it commercially and to do it on scale and not impact the other environmental concerns like taking away from food crops or increasing the cost of food crops. That's why it'll take some time to get there."
This can lower carbon emissions by 80 per cent compared with traditional jet fuel, it said.
"We're effectively doubling our carbon offsetting programme from today and we're capping our net emissions across Qantas and Jetstar from 2020 so that all new flying will be carbon neutral," Joyce said.
"It's ambitious, but achievable."
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Qantas' pledge coincided with an outbreak of deadly bushfires along Australia's east coast, which experts have linked to climate change.
Qantas said it operates the largest carbon offset programme in the aviation industry, with around 10 per cent of customers choosing to offset their flights through conservation and environmental projects. The airline said it would now match every dollar spent on offsets, effectively doubling the number of flights offset.
Air France and British Airways last month said they would offset all emissions on their domestic flights from 2020.
The aviation industry has come under increasing pressure this year from a movement led by activists such as teenager Greta Thunberg which has called for greater action against climate change, including ditching air travel.
Companies are finding it harder to ignore growing scrutiny of their climate change policies by investors.
Fund managers, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and others are showing greater care when investing in companies, and have started limiting exposure to oil, gas and coal stocks.
In coordination with global lobby the International Air Transport Association, which represents nearly 300 airlines, the aviation industry is launching a campaign it hopes will counter a 'flight shaming' movement.
That movement has gained momentum as travellers become increasingly concerned about their environmental impact.
The aviation industry has already cut carbon emissions from each plane traveller in half since 1990, largely thanks to more fuel-efficient aircraft.