NAIROBI (Reuters) - Ten airlines are expected to start investing in projects this year that earn carbon credits under a U.N. scheme to help offset emissions, officials said on Friday as Kenya Airways became the first African carrier to enlist.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is running a carbon offset program under the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), in which firms investing in such projects receive credits called certified emissions reductions.
The global aviation body said there was a push for airlines to have carbon offset programs because the industry’s rapid expansion is likely to pose a climate change challenge.
“Aviation is a growing market especially in the Asia region. That is why we have specific measures in place to neutralize those increases (in carbon emissions),” Michael Schneider, IATA assistant director for carbon offsets, told Reuters.
“This year we expect 10 airlines to join our carbon offset program and about five are from Asian countries.”
So far seven airlines under IATA are already funding various projects around the world. The aviation sector contributes about 2 percent of total global carbon emissions.
Kenya Airways said it planned to fund an expansion project in the country’s 48-megawatt Olkaria III geothermal power station in the Rift Valley. The airline has so far offset 100 tons during a trial run in April.
The airline, a leading carrier on the African continent, said its passengers could chose to offset carbon emissions of their flights by agreeing to pay a surcharge on tickets.
Kenya Airways said the program would start with passengers making online bookings. Anyone wishing to forego the program would be allowed to fly with a normal ticket.
“There is a lot that all of us have done to damage it (the environment) and there is a lot that we can do to make sure we mitigate the damage. It’s not too late,” Titus Naikuni, Kenya Airways’ chief executive, said during the program’s launch.
The airline said the option will be available for offline bookings at a later date.
IATA’s Schneider said three other African airlines — Mozambique Airlines (LAM), Egyptair and South African Airways were expected to start making payments to carbon offset schemes this year.
“They are in full swing and in the next two months LAM is going to implement its program and Egyptair will be next in four months. We are in discussions with South African Airways but they have not yet committed,” said Schneider.
With only 28 of the more than 1,300 projects registered so far by the U.N., Africa accounts for a little more than two percent of the global CDM market. Analysts say lack of financing was largely behind this.
“Many African countries are often seen as high risk and it’s been harder to raise the finance,” said Tom Morton, executive director at J.P. Morgan, Middle East and Africa Environmental Markets.
Editing by George Obulutsa and Anthony Barker