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Published on Thursday, October 10, 2019

BA to offset emissions on domestic flights

British Airways will spend £3 million offsetting all domestic flight emissions from next year after its owner IAG became the first airline group to commit to net-zero carbon flying by 2050.

Chief executive Willie Walsh said that the company would reach the net-zero target largely through carbon offsetting. He insisted that electric or hydrogen aircraft were not an option for most international flights.

However, he said the group, which includes Iberia and Aer Lingus, would also substantially reduce emissions through the use of sustainable fuels and by phasing out older aircraft, including its 33 Boeing 747s.

"We will continue to use a carbon-based fuel throughout. We don't see a credible alternative," said Walsh. "It's going to be some time until we see an electric or hybrid-electric plane ... you're looking at smaller aircraft capable of flying up to 150 passengers up to 1,000km.

"The technology to cover the entire network is some time away."

His comments brought derision from Justin Francis of Responsible Travel, who described BA's carbon offsetting scheme as 'the worse case of green-washing'.

"Offsets are simply an excuse to pollute more," he said.

Walsh acknowledged that in the past there have been concerns about carbon offsetting schemes, whereby companies or individuals can pay to plant trees to balance out their carbon emissions. Some have criticised such schemes, saying they lead to no reduction in overall carbon emissions.

"It's very clear that any offsetting scheme has to be a permanent reduction in CO2, and verifiable," said Walsh.

Walsh said BA was offsetting domestic flight emissions as environmentally-conscious passengers could choose to travel by train instead.

"In the UK where there is an alternative, there is a greater focus on making sure aviation is paying its way to address the environmental impact," he said.

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