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What is Carbon Offsetting? And what you should know

Release date:
March 2020
Samantha Webb head and shoulders portrait in front of Air BP exhibition panel
Samantha Webb, Air BP’s Global Offer Development Manager, on whether carbon offsetting addresses flight shaming
 

With airline passenger numbers projected to double over the next two decades to 8.2bn passengers, the aviation industry is coming under increasing pressure to cut its carbon emissions. Samantha Webb addresses questions on carbon offsetting and how air passengers can mitigate the impact of carbon emissions generated by their flight.

 

What is carbon offsetting?

 

Everyone has a carbon footprint and a variety of factors impact it; from the heating system used in your home, to the type of transportation you take, and even the food you eat. Carbon offsetting is used to compensate for your emissions by funding an equivalent amount of emissions savings elsewhere. Carbon offsetting can help as part of a broader carbon reduction approach. 


In aviation, carbon offsetting starts with measuring how many tonnes of carbon are produced by a flight on a per passenger basis. This creates the carbon ‘footprint’ for the flight and for each individual passenger. Once this is measured, carbon credits can be purchased for the same amount of emissions, effectively balancing out the carbon emitted so the net impact on the climate is neutral. Carbon credits are purchased from projects around the world that are reducing emissions, including initiatives such as forest planting, replacing open fires with more efficient cooking equipment, and biogas installations. These projects often have a broad range of socio-economic benefits as well. For example, when cookstoves replace open fires, wood consumption is reduced, carbon emissions are reduced, and respiratory health may be improved. Installing solar panels in countries like India can support thousands of new jobs and environmental education classes in Zambia can help communities learn more about sustainable farming practices.

 

Am I really helping by offsetting my individual carbon footprint?

 

Whilst your individual contribution might be small, as a whole this makes a significant impact. At BP Target Neutral we have helped offset nearly five million tons of customer carbon emissions, which is equivalent to taking 2.5 million cars off the road for a year.

 

Doesn’t offsetting encourage people to continue polluting by easing their guilt?

 

Offsetting is part of a broader approach. It should be done in conjunction with other actions in the industry to reduce carbon emissions, including improving aircraft technology, the efficiency of aircraft operations, improving infrastructure, and increasing the use of sustainable aviation fuel (‘SAF’).

 

How can I be sure the carbon offsets I purchase will genuinely reduce carbon emissions?

 

It’s important you check that the offsets you purchase come from vendors who comply with the requirements of ICROA’s (International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance) code of best practice. The standards set out in the code ensure a project’s emission reductions are real, additional (i.e. that they would not have happened without the project), permanent and unique.  BP Target Neutral—BP’s carbon offsetting program—adopts these standards. In addition, we visit each carbon offset project to ensure the carbon accounting work of the auditors is of the highest quality, and to examine aspects outside the auditors’ scope such as human rights, health and safety. These visits also enable our staff to assess the various socio-economic benefits for local communities, such as long-term employment and better energy security.

 

What carbon offsetting projects is Air BP currently involved in?

 

In 2018, Air BP launched its carbon offsetting offer for business aviation in Brazil. Its first customer, Avantto, offset more than 1,000 tons of carbon emissions from June 2018 to May 2019 – the equivalent of 1,588 trips from São Paulo (SP / HBR) to Angra dos Reis (RJ) or the carbon that could be captured by almost 73,000 adult trees*. The agreement with Avantto was renewed for another year, enabling customers to offset the emissions related to the fuel supplied to the company by Air BP.


In August 2019, Air BP announced a new collaboration with Voa São Paulo in Brazil and expanded its carbon offsetting program to two airports in the consortium to include Jundiaí and Amarais airports with potential to expand the offer to more of Voa São Paulo’s locations in the future.

 

Air BP’s carbon offset programme is part of BP’s commitment to achieving a lower carbon future, addressing the dual challenge of meeting the increasing energy the world demands, while at the same time working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It complements Air BP’s own carbon neutral plane fuelling operations at 250 locations around the world.

 

BP Target Neutral is a voluntary program to help reduce carbon emissions. To understand more about your carbon emissions when you take a flight, check out BP’s flight carbon calculator by visiting www.bptargetneutral.com.

 

*One adult tree captures an average of 15.6kg of CO2 per year.

For more information on low carbon click here.

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