After launching offsetting programs a few years back, the attitude of the airline industry to carbon offsetting remains "generally unsatisfactory" according to a report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee in the U.K. Although the report failed to address the merits of carbon offsetting, it evaluated the current schemes of several large airlines — including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Silverjet.
The committee that wrote the report singled out British Airways' lackluster efforts for being "risible" and urged the airlines to make it easier for passengers to purchase offsets. It specifically noted that BA had only encouraged the purchase of 1600 tons of offsets on average each year since the program was launched in 2005 — which would cover the emissions of "four return flights to New York on a (Boeing) 777."Though such schemes are still voluntary in the airline industry, the report criticized the airlines for still not being "disposed to consider whole-hearted co-operation with the government over offsetting on account of the unexpected increase (by the government) of APD (the airport departure air passenger duty tax)."
Virgin Atlantic hadn't started offering its own offsets at the time the report was released and didn't even point customers towards an alternate carbon offset provider. This is particularly disappointing coming from Sir Richard Branson's company, which had recently made a lot of noise about becoming more environmentally friendly and investing in a new, more efficient type of biofuel. And while Silverjet was commended for its aggressive stance towards emissions, the committee suggested that it should try to improve its carbon efficiency.
"We are concerned that prospects for growth in carbon offsetting are being held back," said Tim Yeo MP, the chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee. As we've reported on before, there is still much debate in the aviation industry over climate concerns and plans to push for "zero emissions" so it may yet still be a while before we see the majority of airlines adopt a tough, ambitious policy on reducing emissions.
See also: ::British Activists Satirize Government, Airline Industry
Image courtesy of Ian Muttoo