JetBlue is getting greener. The carrier this week announced that it will offset the carbon dioxide emissions for all of its domestic flights beginning this July. The move will make it the first major U.S. airline to be totally carbon neutral for all domestic air travel.
JetBlue will also start flying aircraft powered by biofuel on flights out of San Francisco International Airport starting in mid-2020.
The efforts are the latest in what has been a sea change among airlines to curb their emissions. This past fall, Air France announced that it will offset 100 percent of the carbon emissions on all of its domestic flights by January 1, 2020.
Delta Air Lines recently vowed to cap carbon emissions at 2012 levels through the ongoing purchase of carbon offsets, and United Airlines has highlighted its commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050, compared to its 2005 emissions levels.
And we can expect to continue to see more of these sustainability initiatives being rolled out by carriers as they come under mounting pressure to meet national and international climate regulations. The International Civil Aviation Organization’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (known as CORSIA) has a goal of ensuring that all growth in international flight capacity after 2020 is carbon neutral.
The International Air Transport Association has also outlined some climate ambitions for the airline industry. The global trade organization has asked for a net reduction in aviation CO2 emissions of 50 percent by 2050, relative to 2005 levels.
The airlines are also facing growing scrutiny from a flying public that is increasingly concerned about climate change. A survey of 6,000 people conducted by Swiss bank UBS this past fall found that 24 percent of U.S. travelers have reduced their air travel by at least one or more flights in the past year due to environmental concerns. The results indicated that the flygskam (pronounced “fleeg-skaam”) or “flight shame” movement inspired by young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is gaining momentum stateside. The movement has been fueled by a growing wave of eco-conscious travelers who are forgoing flying for less environmentally harmful forms of transportation such as train travel.
JetBlue’s environmental progress
The expanded effort is expected to result in an additional 15 to 17 billion pounds of emissions being offset per year, the equivalent of removing more than 1.5 million passenger vehicles from the road, according to the carrier.
JetBlue’s offset projects include forest conservation work, landfill gas capture (the process of capturing the gases that emerge during the decomposition of organic material in landfills and converting them into a renewable energy resource), and solar and wind power projects.
In addition to offsetting, JetBlue has agreed to purchase sustainable aviation fuel from Neste, a producer of renewable diesel, starting later this year.
Neste’s renewable jet fuel is produced entirely from waste and residue materials; it has up to an 80 percent smaller carbon footprint compared to regular fossil jet fuel. JetBlue said it will continue to explore additional biofuel options, which it sees as a critical part of the industry’s transition to a lower-carbon model. The hope is to start creating greater demand for sustainable aviation fuel, which would in time bring the cost of biofuel down and make it a more affordable alternative.