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Etihad Airways launches first aircraft carbon offset programme in Middle East

Carbon management Climate solutions Environmental Economic measures

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, has committed to purchasing carbon offsets, to completely neutralise the CO2 emissions of its flagship “Greenliner” 787-10 aircraft for a full year of operations in 2021.

The initiative is the start of the airline’s journey to reduce CO2 emissions to 50 percent of 2019 levels by 2035, and to achieve full net zero emissions by 2050 – a first for any airline in the Gulf and one of the first to set a target of this scale in the industry. Separately the airline will implement an additional voluntary offset programme for passengers via its website (etihad.com) in 2021.

Etihad’s Greenliner carbon offset programme has been sourced in partnership with Respira, an international carbon offset finance house specialising in tailored offset schemes across multiple sectors. Etihad’s plan is centred on a Tanzanian forestry project and will initially purchase 80,000 tonnes of CO2 offsets.

The Makame Savannah REDD project - developed by Carbon Tanzania - employs a unique community-based model to curb deforestation and promote better management of local natural resources across over 100,000 hectares in the southern extension of the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem.

The offset scheme is verified and certified by VERRA, an independent carbon offset quality assurance body, under its Verified Carbon Standard. This ensures carbon offsets are quantifiable, additional, and fully sustainable. In addition, the Tanzanian project conforms to Climate, Community and Biodiversity standards, which protect endangered species and local communities. The scheme’s first offset vintages were certified in early November 2020.

Tony Douglas, Etihad Aviation Group CEO, said: “It’s encouraging to end a difficult year with such a positive move for the sustainable future of aviation. While the year brought many challenges, sustainability has remained at the top of our agenda, and the work hasn’t stopped. Expect to see more ground-breaking initiatives in 2021 as we learn the environmental lessons from initiatives with our Greenliner fleet and other sustainability initiatives”.

The launch of the Greenliner carbon offset programme complements Etihad’s ongoing work to develop and test Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs), with the goal of making them commercially viable for widespread adoption by the industry.

Ana Haurie, CEO of Respira, said: “Respira offers a fresh approach to the carbon market by aligning the interests of project developers, buyers and capital providers. In this way we create win-win outcomes for all stakeholders. It is a privilege to work with Etihad, which has shown real commitment to its sustainability goals through what is a challenging period for the airline industry.”

To support Etihad and Abu Dhabi’s long-term sustainability objectives, Respira will establish operations in the Capital of the UAE at the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), the Emirate’s international financial centre, to bring its offset expertise to the Middle East.

Dr. Alejandro Rios-Galvan, Chairman of the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium at Khalifa University of Science and Technology, who advises Etihad on a range of sustainability issues, said: “This is a great start for Etihad’s zero carbon journey using a well-respected offset standard that is fully compliant with the best sustainability practices out there. We look forward to continue supporting Etihad on their long-term sustainability strategy”.