EasyJet to scrap carbon offsetting to focus on cutting emissions

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

LUTON, England, Sept 26 (Reuters) - EasyJet (EZJ.L) said on Monday it would scrap its carbon offsetting scheme at the end of the year and instead target a 78% drop in emissions by 2050 via investments in efficient aircraft, sustainable aviation fuel and operating improvements.

The British budget airline said it had contracted all its sustainable aviation fuel needs for the next five years from its supplier Q8Aviation, while it was also investing in technology to optimise the descent of its aircraft.

The new measures follow its fleet upgrade programme using fuel-efficient Airbus A320neo family aircraft, and a partnership with engine maker Rolls-Royce (RR.L) to test the use of hydrogen in turbofan engines.

"We believe this is doable. We recognise it is ambitious as well," Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said of the new target.

He said the carbon-offsetting programme launched in 2019 was always an interim measure until new technology to reduce the airline's own emissions started to come on stream.

"If you go out and ask the public in general, they would say that the best way to decarbonise the industry would be through this zero-emission technology and that is what we are now putting more attention on to," he told reporters at the company's headquarters at Luton Airport, north of London.

EasyJet has been offsetting carbon emissions from the fuel used by its flights since November 2019 with projects that prevent deforestation, plant trees or encourage the take up of renewable energy.

There were no supplements on ticket prices to pay for the scheme, the airline said when it was introduced.

Lundgren declined to say how much had been invested in the scheme, which has offset nearly 8.7 million tonnes of carbon to date, but he said the total would be exceeded by the measures announced to reduce the carrier's direct emissions.

He said easyJet would continue to offset on behalf of its customers for bookings until the end of this year, covering flights well into next year.

From January 2023, easyJet said it would offer a voluntary offsetting option for customers.

Asked about sterling's plunge to a record low against the dollar, Lundgren said: "We have a lot of expenses in dollars and we have revenues coming in pounds. But on the other hand we are one of the best hedged airlines when it comes to the fuel position and the FX position going forward."

"So of course it does have an impact but it has less impact on us versus some of our competitors."

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Kate Holton and Mark Potter

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