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Airlines Promote Net-Zero Emissions for Earth Day 2023

Air Canada marks Earth Day by announcing the purchase of 9.5 million litres of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) (Photo | CNW Group/Air Canada)

The global aviation industry’s target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 includes a number of reduction measures agreed upon at an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) conference last year. The World Economic Forum says these measures include ‘ramping up innovative aircraft technologies, “streamlining” flight operations and the increased production and use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).’

Pre-pandemic the aviation industry was reported to contribute 2.5 percent to global carbon dioxide emissions and to have a 3.5 percent non-carbon dioxide-related impact on climate. This compares to 8.5 percent of worldwide emissions attributable to agriculture and 10 percent to the fashion industry.  However, it is estimated that only 20 percent of the world’s population utilizes aviation services hence the industry’s actions to achieve a net-zero target by 2050.

With Earth Day 2023 on Saturday, April 22, a number of airlines are taking the opportunity to announce their latest initiatives to contribute toward the net-zero goal. Air India, Air Canada and Cathay Pacific are some of the airlines undertaking initiatives to commemorate the worldwide awareness campaign that marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

Air India announced this week that the airline has ‘minimized single-use plastic usage by approximately 80 percent onboard all flights across its worldwide network.’ The carrier undertook a number of initiatives to achieve the target, including the 100 percent removal of 500ml plastic water bottles from all Economy Class seat pockets on widebody aircraft operating international flights, the replacement of plastic straws with paper straws, and the introduction of reusable linen bags on board.

Air Canada announced the purchase of 9.5 million liters of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to ‘power flights from San Francisco airport.’ The airline’s partnership with SAF producer Neste and the use of SAF is a core pillar of the carrier’s Climate Action Plan. Michael Rousseau, President and CEO at Air Canada, stated: “At Air Canada, we have adopted a multifaceted approach to addressing climate change and sustainability. Environmental and social factors are incorporated into our strategic decisions, as are our fleet purchases and daily operations through our support of low-carbon alternatives.”

Rousseau added: “We have been purchasing Neste’s SAF since February 2022. Today’s announced purchase represents a five-fold increase in our SAF procurement year over year, and it is an important step towards our target of one percent fuel to be SAF by 2025, supporting our journey towards our 2050 net zero decarbonization goals.”

The Manila Times reports that Cathay Pacific staff, ‘trade agents and other partners will be gathering at various mangrove forests across Southeast Asia in April and May to kickstart the planting of mangrove trees in their respective countries.’ The planting of over 20,000 mangrove trees comes as the result of the airline’s ‘1 Ticket, 1 Tree’ campaign held in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore in November 2022. The project started in Thailand the previous year and was expanded in 2022.

The airline chose the initiative as ‘many communities in Southeast Asia depend on mangroves for food, protection, and income. Conservation of mangrove forests can support the local communities and protect their livelihoods.’  Dominic Perret, regional general manager of Cathay Pacific Southeast Asia and Southwest Pacific, said: “We are excited to continue contributing to projects that make a difference to the communities we serve.”

John Flett


  • John Flett

    John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content. John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John has held the positions of course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and has been a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.

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