How did flight EJU5841 make history yesterday?

Photo courtesy easyJet

I have received the oddest email announcing that easyJet flight EJU5841 took to the skies yesterday morning and made history. Was it on time, I asked initially? Did it manage to get six more seats onto the plane? Did it land at the wrong airport?

I am pleased to report, none of the above and, to easyJet’s credit it was the first of every single easyJet flight that will offset the carbon emissions from the fuel used, domestic and international. And it claims to be the first airline to do so.

The airline claims that even though flying is a ‘fantastic thing’ (their words) it has to balance this with the effect we all know it is having on the environment. So for every flight easyJet operates from now on, it will offset the carbon it produces from the fuel used, by investing in projects that include the planting of trees or protection against deforestation. The company admits that carbon offsetting is only an interim measure while new technologies are developed. However, at the moment it believe it’s the best way to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

You can’t argue with that and credit to easyJet for taking this stand, but it doesn’t plan to stop there. Its web page states: “We’ll continue to find other ways to reduce carbon emissions such as taxiing on one engine or removing weight from our aircraft, both of which use less fuel. We have championed the development of electric technology and will continue to do so in order to ensure that flying remains a sustainable option for us all in the future.”

OK, so what is carbon offsetting and why is this any different from other proposals we hear about? How does one paying more money actually flow through to carbon reduction efforts? For a start, we are not being asked to subsidize the effort, something I have always had concerns about.

easyJet explains it simply and clearly: “Carbon offsetting is the reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. This means making sure that for every tonne of CO2 emitted by our planes, there is one tonne less in the atmosphere. We can do this by investing in projects which physically remove CO2 from the air such as planting more trees or protecting against deforestation. Carbon can be offset in this way because one tonne of CO2 has the same climate impact wherever it is emitted.”

The company goes on to say that it will only participate in carbon offsetting projects which meet either the Gold Standard or Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) accreditation – these companies are globally recognised and respected for their standards of offsetting.

Examples of the projects it is investing in include:

  • Afforestation (planting new trees), as well as the prevention of deforestation;
  • Production of renewable energies including solar and wind;
  • Working with local communities in developing countries to foster emission reductions in their way of life.

If easyJet can do it how long will it take other major airlines to follow suit, or mobile network operators for that matter. I wonder how many remote base stations on the planet are still powered by diesel generators?

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