EasyJet gives carbon offset reform a handy shove

An EasyJet Airbus aircraft takes off from the southern runway at Gatwick Airport in Crawley, Britain, August 25, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

LONDON, Sept 27 (Reuters Breakingviews) - EasyJet’s (EZJ.L) latest statement on climate change may end up being quite useful. The $2.5 billion short-haul airline says it plans to ditch attempts to offset its 2.7 million tonnes of annual greenhouse gas emissions via carbon-removing pursuits like planting trees. Good: even those well-disposed towards so-called offsets have flagged that they need to be accompanied by robust plans to cut emissions by 2050, which is not always the case. Offsets have also attracted heat for being flaky.

Chief Executive Johan Lundgren’s stance reflects a burgeoning trend which has seen regulators and industry groups move from setting net zero targets to scrutinising them. The Science Based Targets Initiative, which vets net zero pledges, has tended to frown on companies seeking their seal of approval if their decarbonisation plans overuse offsets.

EasyJet will instead invest in new technology to cut emissions, including zero carbon-emitting aircraft and carbon capture technology. The risk is that some of these plans, like investing in hydrogen engines that churn out water rather than fumes, don’t actually become reality. But to the extent that Lundgren’s general shift could encourage other corporates to follow suit and invest in innovation that may tangibly help decarbonisation, it merits a tentative thumbs-up. (By Aimee Donnellan)

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)

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