What is carbon offsetting and how can you get involved?
In 2022, travel is becoming a more thoughtful endeavour. How can we reduce our impact on the environment while still discovering new places, connecting with new people and exploring new countries? One option is through carbon offsetting, but what is it and what is BA doing about it?
What is carbon offsetting?
Carbon offsetting is recognised by scientists, governments and regulators, including the United Nations, as one of the ways to tackle climate change in the short term. It’s a process that allows people, or companies, to reduce their overall environmental impact by supporting projects that lower emissions elsewhere. Carbon offsetting is a solution to limit climate change impacts in the short term, particularly for industries that are harder to decarbonise, such as aviation.
How does BA calculate the amount of offset that needs covering?
BA calculates the amount of carbon a plane emits in tonnes, which varies by length of flight and the type of aircraft flying on a particular route. For those emissions it can’t currently reduce itself, for example, through the use of sustainable aviation fuel and flying more efficiently, it can purchase carbon credits, also known as offsets.
Each offset represents the avoidance, reduction or removal of one tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere. These high-quality offsets are produced by carbon projects. By purchasing offsets, companies such as British Airways are providing essential funds for these projects to run successfully.
Projects can range from those that provide lower carbon alternatives, such as improved cooking stoves, or those that protect natural resources that absorb carbon from the atmosphere, for example, forests.
How can I offset my flight emissions?
British Airways offsets the emissions on all flights within the UK, and customers can offset their own emissions if travelling outside the UK. Customers have the choice to offset their flights online before they fly, or from the comfort of their seat on board using BA’s carbon calculator via Wi-Fi. For flights to and from Europe, a £2.50 contribution to an offset project can be made via the Speedbird Café menu app. Find out more about it, and calculate your carbon emissions per flight, here.
What kind of projects does BA contribute to?
The Mai Ndombe project in the Congo Basin helps protect the second largest rainforest in the world – 300,000 hectares of rainforest – and conserves the habitats of local wildlife such as bonobos and elephants, as well as providing new alternative livelihoods for more than 130 local people.
Trees store carbon in their trunks and roots. Without essential finance from the sale of offsets, the forest would be destroyed for logging, and carbon emissions would be released into the atmosphere. By keeping trees standing, the local community helps ensure the carbon stays locked up in the trees and soil and can continue to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.
Another notable project is Gold Standard clean cookstoves in Nigeria. In many countries, people burn wood to cook their food and boil water on open fires, often inside their homes. Cutting down trees to burn wood for fuel releases carbon. But efficient cookstoves mean fewer trees are cut down and less carbon is emitted. The stoves are made from scrap metal, promoting recycling in the community, while improving family health by reducing indoor emissions.
How do we know these projects actually reduce emissions?
The voluntary carbon market is a pretty well-established global industry, with rigorous sustainability standards and accounting methods to ensure carbon offsets do reduce, avoid or remove the carbon associated with them.
British Airways only sources high-quality offsets from projects that are certified against credible international carbon standards. The projects are regularly monitored and verified to ensure the offsets they produce are additional, legally attributable, measurable, permanent, unique and independently verified.