JetBlue readies its business for a new climate reality
The US-headed air carrier JetBlue Airways Inc. (JetBlue), has announced that it will offset carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from jet fuel for all domestic JetBlue flights beginning in July 2020, making it the first major US airline to take this step toward reducing its contribution to global warming. JetBlue also announced plans to start flying with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in mid-2020 on flights from San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
As part of the airline’s plan to prepare for a changing climate, these commitments underscore JetBlue’s long-term strategy to ensure a more sustainable business for crewmembers, customers, shareholders and communities served by JetBlue. The efforts also build on the airline’s existing programs like investments in fuel-saving technologies and aircraft, as well as advocating for a more fuel-efficient air traffic control system that would reduce emissions from flying.
Air travel connects people and cultures and supports a global economy, yet we must act to limit this critical industry’s contributions to climate change. We reduce where we can and offset where we can’t. By offsetting all of our domestic flying, we’re preparing our business for the lower-carbon economy that aviation – and all sectors – must plan for, said Robin Hayes, CEO, JetBlue
Offsetting emissions from domestic flights starting 2020
JetBlue first began offsetting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions with programs to balance customers flying during specific times of year but today’s moves expand those efforts to reduce emissions associated with fuel use in a bigger way.
JetBlue will continue to partner with Carbonfund.org Foundation —a leading US-based nonprofit carbon reduction and climate solutions organization. Since 2008, JetBlue has already offset more than 2.6 billion pounds of CO2 emissions in partnership with Carbonfund.org.
JetBlue’s new carbon offsetting partners now also include established experts in the space – EcoAct and South Pole. EcoAct is a privately held international sustainability consultancy, and project developer, headquartered in Paris, France with offices across France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Kenya.
South Pole is a leading provider of global climate solutions covering project and technology finance, data and advisory on sustainability risks and opportunities, as well as the development of environmental commodities such as carbon and renewable energy credits.
This expansion is expected to offset an additional 15-17 billion pounds (7 to 8 million tonnes) of emissions per year. JetBlue will offer ways for the airline’s customers and communities to connect with the carbon offsetting projects JetBlue is engaging with.
When projects that reduce CO2 emissions are developed, every ton of emissions reduced results in the creation of one carbon offset or carbon credit. A carbon credit is a tradeable certificate that represents the avoidance or removal of one tonne of CO2 emissions. Buying carbon credits means investing in emission reduction projects that require carbon offsetting financing in order to take place.
The airline industry is one of the few industries that has collectively committed to an international emissions reduction goal. Air travel brings so much good to the world and JetBlue has always been about making our essential industry better. Carbon offsetting is a bridge to, not a silver bullet for, a lower carbon future. Reducing and mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions is a fundamental aspect of our business plan and our mission to inspire humanity, said Robin Hayes.
Types of carbon offsetting projects
As part of its offsetting program, JetBlue selects projects around the globe that will offset the use of jet fuel. Many projects operate in less economically developed countries where a bigger community impact can be made. Emissions reduction projects reduce the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) in the atmosphere in at least one of three ways – avoiding GHG emissions in favour of renewable sources, removing emissions from the atmosphere, and destroying emissions when possible.
JetBlue says that it will support carbon offsets projects focused on but not limited to:
- Forestry: Forest conservation projects prevent deforestation by helping voluntarily forego plans that would have converted forests for other purposes, thereby sequestering CO2 emissions from the atmosphere in trees and soil while having additional co-benefits for communities and local wildlife.
- Landfill Gas Capture (LFG): Landfill gas is a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material in landfills. Instead of escaping into the air, LFG can be captured, converted and used as a renewable energy resource. In addition, LFG energy projects generate revenue and create jobs in the local community and beyond.
- Solar/Wind: These projects develop expansive solar and wind farms, generating power that otherwise would have been supplied by fossil fuels like coal, diesel and furnace oil. These projects also create jobs and revenues for local communities.
All of JetBlue’s purchased carbon offsets are audited, verified and retired on the airline’s behalf. The offsets will benefit physical projects and are verified and enforceable, as reputable carbon offset auditors have confirmed the claims behind a program and the project is on a public database. These projects are also permanent and ongoing. The sale of carbon offsets helps to finance the projects.
In addition to carbon offsets JetBlue’s carbon offsetting and sustainable fuel purchase is just one example of the efforts that JetBlue is making to mitigate its contribution to climate change in response to public and market demand.
- More Fuel Efficient Aircraft: JetBlue operates a robust fuel savings strategy that starts with its new fuel-efficient fleet. The airline’s incoming 85 new Airbus A321neo (new engine option) aircraft will help reduce carbon emissions more than ever before. All A321neo aircraft improve fuel economy by 20 percent through newly designed engine technology and cabin changes. In addition, the acquisition of 70 Airbus A220s to replace older aircraft marks a major investment over several years, reducing emissions per seat by about 40 percent compared to the older aircraft they will replace.
- Air Traffic Control (ATC) Modernization: JetBlue is also advocating for a more efficient ATC system. Current ATC inefficiencies account for as much as 12 percent of fuel burn and resulting emissions.
JetBlue focuses on issues that have the potential to impact its business. Customers, crewmembers and community are key to JetBlue’s sustainability strategy. Demand from these groups for responsible service is one of the motivations behind changes that help reduce the airline’s environmental impact.
Sustainable aviation fuel from San Francisco in 2020
JetBlue has also agreed to purchase sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from Finland-headed oil refiner and renewable fuel producer Neste Oyj, the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel and a pioneer in renewable jet fuel, starting in 2020.
Neste MY Renewable Jet Fuel is produced 100 percent from waste and residue raw materials and over the lifecycle, it has up to 80 percent smaller carbon footprint compared to fossil jet fuel. The fuel is fully compatible with the existing jet engine technology and fuel distribution infrastructure when blended with fossil jet fuel.
The fuel is being shipped via the fuel pipeline to San Francisco International Airport where it will be safely used alongside regular fuel without safety or operational impact. JetBlue is continually “exploring SAF options and views SAF as a critical part of the industry’s transition” to a lower-carbon model.