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A GOL 737-800 landing in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | João Machado)

GOL Pledges to Go Carbon Neutral by 2050

This past Thursday saw worldwide recognition of Earth Day from corporations and individuals alike. Among the celebrations and global conferences, Brazil saw for the first time an airline set its own goals and targets to go carbon neutral in the years ahead.

GOL Linhas Aéreas, the country’s largest airline by domestic traffic pre-pandemic — and currently, as of the last assessment by the country’s civil aviation authority, the second-largest — has pledged to go carbon neutral by the year 2050. According to the company, it becomes, with the announcement, the first airline in Latin America to “be committed to a bold plan, ruled by transparency with its internal and external public, which reinforces its purpose to be a regional leader in the industry of sustainable aviation.”

Brazil’s three major airlines, as publicly listed companies, publish annually their sustainability and integrated reports. However, GOL is the first to set up a target, following the lead of multiple large companies around the globe.

The announcement follows similar goals from the International Civil Aviation Organization ICAO, which, in recent years, has set up a goal of carbon neutral growth from 2020 — a limit in effect until 2035 — as well as an annual fuel efficiency improvement of 2% until 2050. The industry, according to a GOL press release, has also agreed through ICAO to reduce overall emissions to half the level of emissions registered in 2005, based on the efforts begun at the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference.

With this in mind, GOL will work with four goals: developement of new technologies, including biofuels, for both aircraft and engines, operational improvements such as improvement of air space standards, better use of infrastructure and logistics and finally as “market-based measures.” These landmarks were set up by the ICAO and confirmed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

“GOL’s strategy to attain zero net carbon emissons until 2050 is focused on the conduction of operational improvements and techniques that reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, improving the fuel efficiency and replacing oil-derived fuels for alternatives with a smaller carbon impact,” said GOL Vice President of Operations Celso Ferrer. “We hope to count on market-based mechanisms, including carbon compensations in the short-, medium- and long-term, along with the simplification of infrastructure and technological evolutions needed to allow a transition for a low-carbon aviation.”

TGOL is also working on obtaining certificates attesting to its efforts for better sustainability standards. Last year, it reached Stage 1 of the IATA Environmental Assessment, and this year it is aiming at Stage 2 — equivalent, it states, to the ISO 14.000 standards.

“Knowing Brazil’s capacity and tradition on biofuel production, GOL understands we have a privileged condition for the production in national soil also of sustainable aviation fuel, which contributes for the reaching of the goal,” said Pedro Scorza, a captain at the airline and the company’s advisor for environmental projects.

Scorza adds that soon, the airline will also allow its passengers to offset their trip’s carbon emissions. By doing so, GOL will be the first of Brazil’s major airlines to allow customers this option.

João Machado
João Machado
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