Etihad first among Gulf airlines to set net-zero emissions goals by 2050

In early 2020, Etihad Airways announced its ambitious goal of zero net emissions by 2050 and splitting its 2019 net emission levels by 2035, thus becoming the first among Gulf airlines to set such industry targets.

To achieve that goal, Etihad committed to purchase carbon offsets to completely neutralize the CO2 emissions of its flagship 787-10 Greenliner aircraft for a full year of operations. The program has been verified and certified by Verra—the independent carbon offset regulator—and supports Carbon Tanzania’s Makame Savannah project, which protects endangered species and local communities.

Etihad’s dedicated fuel efficiency steering committee focuses on implementing fuel-saving initiatives across the business, with multiple, dedicated working groups looking closely at fuel-saving initiatives. These range from reducing weight—from potable water to duty-free items—to running studies on crew baggage and average passenger weights for selected A380 routes to optimize fuel loading.

Simultaneously, Etihad is actively optimizing approach, flight level and continuous descent and ascent operations on all routes to save fuel. It also uses the latest digital navigation charts, and auxiliary power unit (APU) burn management methods to achieve the most efficient flying.

By supporting the development of alternative, sustainable fuels, the company can significantly reduce its carbon emissions.

Etihad is a founding partner of the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), and a founding partner of Abu Dhabi’s Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC). Together with Khalifa University, Boeing, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), General Electric, Safran and Bauer Resources, Etihad identifies feedstock for sustainable alternative fuel for the aviation industry. One is leading the development of saltwater-tolerant plants, the oil of which is used to produce biofuel.

Its flagship Etihad Greenliner arrived in Abu Dhabi with a 30% biofuel blend, further proving its commitment to sustainable alternative fuels.

Weight reduction has also been a factor. While remaining a real feat of human engineering, air travel contributes 2% of global human-made CO2 emissions.

Weight reduction is just one way of tackling carbon emissions, as lighter aircraft mean less fuel burn, therefore fewer emissions. Further, Etihad has one of the youngest fleets globally, and continues to invest in the latest aircraft from Airbus and Boeing, while progressively retiring older, less-efficient types. On average, the Boeing 787-9 is over 60% more fuel-efficient per trip, and up to 35% more efficient per seat than similar aircraft.

Meanwhile, following the purchase of 80,000 tons of carbon offsets in late last year, Etihad Airways is expanding its offset program in collaboration with Shell. The airline is also setting up a guest program to allow guests to purchase additional voluntary offsets.

Through its participation in Shell’s carbon credit program, Etihad will expand its offset program beyond the original Makame Savannah REDD project in Tanzania. That includes Peru’s Cordillera Azul National Park and Indonesia’s Katingan Mentaya Project, making Etihad’s efforts geographically diverse to promote climate action.

Both the Katingan Mentaya and Cordillera Azul projects are certified by the Verified Carbon Standard and Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Standard. They deliver significant carbon dioxide reductions while providing additional benefits to the community and biodiversity and supporting the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals. Etihad has chosen to work with Shell, which actively collaborates to deliver more sustainable solutions for aviation. In addition to being a leading provider of carbon offsets, Shell is a significant supplier of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and is active in advancing the supply and use of SAF globally.

“Exactly one year ago, we committed to a sustainable future with the very real, tangible objective to be completely carbon neutral by 2050 and to reduce CO2 emissions to 50% of 2019 levels by 2035. Since then, the aviation industry has been completely transformed by the Covid-19 crisis, however our commitment to sustainability has never wavered. We have since introduced and led a number of industry-leading sustainability initiatives to further drive and promote carbon neutrality,” said Tony Douglas, Etihad Aviation Group CEO.

For her part, Anna Mascolo, president of Shell Aviation, shared “We are pleased to be helping Etihad Airways reduce their net carbon footprint, through the use of high-quality, nature-based carbon offsets. Until sustainable aviation fuel and technology solutions are developed and deployed at scale, offsetting is not a choice but a necessity if companies within the aviation sector are to meet net-zero emissions targets. This agreement is a great example of action that can be taken today to engage multiple parties in accelerating aviation’s pathway to net zero emissions, even in challenging circumstances.”

“In spite of Covid and the vulnerability of the industry, Etihad is determined to pave the path for a green recovery and commit to environmental stewardship and climate action. In that vein, as well as expanding our self-funded carbon offset program, we are developing the option to allow guests to offset their own journey’s emissions,” said Douglas.

Etihad is working with New Zealand carbon offsetting company CarbonClick. This platform uses certified gold-standard offsets to reduce aviation’s climate impact through ethical, fully traceable reforestation and renewable energy projects to develop its voluntary guest offset program. CarbonClick has helped more than 650 businesses and more than 38,000 individuals in taking climate action. Etihad is one of the first airlines to work with CarbonClick for climate change solutions. (Story and photo courtesy of Etihad Airways)

Watch Etihad’s carbon offsetting program in full swing in this report: