An Assessment of the Role of Carbon Offsets Programs as an Airline Carbon Footprint Mitigation Strategy

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Glenn Baxter


   An important environmental related development in the global airline industry has been the implementation by airlines of voluntary carbon offset programs, which enable their passengers to offset their carbon emissions from their flights. This study aimed to 1) empirically examine the full-service network airlines and low-cost carriers operating around the world that have introduced carbon offset programs for their passengers and 2) to examine the types of carbon emissions reduction projects that are being supported by the various airline’s voluntary carbon offset programs. The study was based on an in-depth qualitative instrumental case study research design. The case study revealed that airlines located in Abu Dhabi, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Finland, throughout Europe, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Kuwait, New Zealand, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United States, and the United Kingdom have introduced carbon offset programs to help mitigate their carbon footprint. Voluntary passenger carbon offset programs are now being offered by both the full-service network carriers (FSNCs) as well as by some of the major low-cost carriers (LCCs). British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, Finnair, Lufthansa, and Swiss International Airlines have also expanded their carbon offset programs to include the option for customers to purchase the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The case study also revealed that there was a total of 83 carbon offset projects that were being supported by the monies raised from the airlines carbon offset programs. These projects include biogas plant improvements, sustainable cook stoves, clean drinking water, forestry protection and reforestation, geothermal energy, heating technology, the use of hydro, photovoltaic (PV) and wind power, landfill gas capture and diversion, a nut concession project, the protection, and restoration of peatlands in Germany and Indonesia, and two waste-related projects.

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