What role for offsetting aviation greenhouse gas emissions in a deep-cut carbon world?
The long-term goal of containing average warming below the 2 °C limit requires deep cuts in emissions from all sectors. The fast growing global aviation industry has committed to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon offsetting is an integral element of the sector's strategy. Already, airlines offer voluntary carbon offsetting to those customers who wish to mitigate the impact of their travel. To ensure carbon offsetting can make a meaningful and credible contribution, this paper first discusses the science behind ‘carbon offsetting’, followed by the associated policy perspective. Then, against the context of different aviation emissions pathways, the paper provides empirical evidence of current airline practices in relation to offsetting mechanisms and communication. Building on these insights, the challenges of reducing aviation emissions and using carbon credits to compensate for ongoing growth are discussed. The paper concludes by proposing five principles of best practice for carbon offsetting that airlines can use as a basis to develop credible emissions strategies, and that could inform the sectoral framework currently being developed by leading aviation organisations.
Journal of Air Transport Management
Environmental Impact Assessment