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Qantas wants to slash its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, which CEO Alan Joyce says is 'ambitious but achievable'

Sharon Masige
  • Qantas plans to cut its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
  • As part of its goal, the airline is doubling the number of flights being carbon offset and capping its emissions from 2020 onwards.
  • Qantas is also investing $50 million over a decade to help build a sustainable aviation fuel industry.

Qantas is on a mission to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

As part of the goal, the airline will invest $50 million over 10 years to create a sustainable aviation fuel industry, cap its net emissions from 2020 onwards, and double the number of flights which offset carbon emissions.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce called the 2050 goal "ambitious but achievable".

“We recognise that airlines have a responsibility to cut emissions and combat climate change," he said in a statement. "We’ve already made some good progress, especially by investing in newer aircraft that have a much smaller carbon footprint."

From 2020, Qantas will offset all growth in emissions from Qantas, Jetstar Australia and New Zealand, QantasLink and Qantas Freight domestic and international flights.

Qantas will also offset all net emissions from its Project Sunrise research flights from Australia to New York and London if they go ahead.

Read more: I flew on Qantas' 'Project Sunrise,' a nonstop flight from New York to Sydney, Australia, that took almost 20 hours.

The global aviation industry is responsible for around 2% of all carbon emissions. Qantas had signed onto the industry's plan to halve emissions by 2050 compared to 2005 levels, but with this new announcement, the airline is going one step further.

Qantas will also work with research bodies and governments to create long term solutions to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the industry over the next 30 years.

Offsetting flights

Qantas claims it operates the largest carbon offset program in the aviation industry, with about 10% of customers who book flights through Qantas.com opting to offset their flights.

In terms of carbon offsetting, Qantas calculates how much carbon dioxide (CO2) a flight emits and either invests in carbon offset projects to remove the same amount of CO2 from the atmosphere or prevent CO2 from being emitted in the first place.

Some of the projects include restoring the Great Barrier Reef and protecting native Tasmanian forests that would have been cleared for logging.

The airline has offset more than three million tonnes of carbon since 2007.

In addition, Qantas and Jetstar are doubling the number of flights offset by matching every dollar spent by those who tick the box to fly carbon neutral.

"By matching our customers’ commitment, we expect even more people to offset their emissions," Qantas said in a statement.

Investing in sustainable fuel

Qantas will be investing $50 million over the next decade to create sustainable aviation fuel. According to Qantas, sustainable aviation fuel can reduce carbon emissions by 80% but is still double the price of traditional fuel.

On top of that, Qantas will invest in more fuel-efficient aircraft and smarter flight planning to reduce fuel consumption. It is replacing its Boeing 747 fleet with more fuel-efficient B787 Dreamliners by the end of 2020, with the B787's burning 20% less fuel than planes of the same size.

Qantas makes a point, however, that electric engines "are still some time away".

“Innovation is going to be key," Joyce said. "We’re investing $50 million to hopefully kickstart a sustainable aviation fuel industry in Australia. We know from our own trials that the technology works but we need to get to a scale of production where it’s a practical substitute.

“Concerns about emissions and climate change are real, but we can’t lose sight of the contribution that air travel makes to society and the economy. The industry has already come a long way in cutting its footprint and the solution from here isn’t to simply ‘fly less’ but to make it more sustainable."

These four Aussie companies share what they're doing to fight climate change on a day-to-day basis.

This article was written in partnership with CUA to save you money on those tricky hidden travel fees. Find out more here.