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easyJet publishes SBTi-aligned net-zero roadmap to 2050 as partner Rolls-Royce makes final preparations for first hydrogen engine tests​

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Most ambitious airline net-zero roadmap to-date, with a focus on new technology once available and the long-term ambition to achieve zero carbon emission flying across entire fleet

• Rolls-Royce partnership to develop hydrogen combustion engine technology for narrowbody aircraft approaches significant milestone with first ground tests imminent

• Alongside the transition to zero carbon emission technology, the roadmap features a combination of fleet renewal, operational efficiencies, airspace modernisation, Sustainable Aviation Fuel and carbon removal technology

• easyJet is focusing its efforts and significant targeted investment into realising its roadmap with new investments announced today into operational efficiencies and SAF, bolstering the existing multi-million-pound investment into the hydrogen engine development and commitment on carbon removal technology

• easyJet outlines the important role of government to help make net-zero by 2050 a reality for airlines

easyJet has today published its roadmap outlining how it can achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This follows the airline’s commitment to the UN-backed Race to Zero last year. It is the most ambitious airline roadmap to-date due to its focus on new technology. The roadmap sets out that through the adoption of a suite of measures including zero carbon emission technology, once available, the airline would be able to reduce its carbon emissions per passenger, per kilometre by 78% by 2050 (vs 2019), with residual emissions addressed by carbon removal technology taking the airline to net-zero. easyJet’s ultimate ambition is to achieve zero carbon emission flying across its entire fleet.

Progress towards zero carbon emission technology is underway as partner Rolls-Royce is making the final preparations for the first ground tests of a hydrogen powered engine. This is part of easyJet’s recently announced partnership with Rolls-Royce to develop hydrogen combustion engine technology capable, among others, of powering easyJet-size, narrowbody aircraft.

Alongside the transition to zero carbon emission technology, the roadmap features a combination of fleet renewal, operational efficiencies, airspace modernisation, Sustainable Aviation Fuel and carbon removal technology. easyJet has long been focused on reducing its carbon emissions, and since 2000, over a twenty-year period, has already reduced its carbon emissions per passenger, per kilometre by one-third.

Today the airline has announced a multi-million-pound fleet-wide investment into the latest aircraft technology. This will enable the airline to achieve substantial and permanent carbon emission reductions in the short-term through the optimisation of aircraft descents. easyJet has also confirmed that it has it has contracted all of the SAF required as reflected in its roadmap for the next five years with its supplier Q8Aviation.

Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, commenting on the launch of the roadmap, said:

“Challenging the status quo is in easyJet’s DNA - from making flying affordable for everyone over 25 years ago, to leading the sector on decarbonisation.

“Today, we’re the first airline to outline an ambitious roadmap in which zero carbon emission technology plays a key role to take us to net-zero emissions by 2050 and ultimately to zero carbon emission flying across our entire fleet.

“I’m delighted this ambition is soon moving one step closer today, as our partner Rolls-Royce is making the final preparations for the first hydrogen engine ground tests to commence.

“Decarbonising aviation is a major undertaking for which the whole sector is coming together, but we also require the support from UK and European governments to help us achieve net-zero and we have clearly outlined the actions needed from them.

“Now we have our roadmap we can ensure we are focused on the things that are going to get us to net-zero in the years to come, helping to ensure there is a sustainable future for aviation for the benefit of the next generation and our planet.”

The roadmap is based on today’s knowledge and technological outlook, over time individual elements may need to be adjusted and scaled up or down. The airline’s previously announced interim science-based target, a 35% carbon emissions intensity reduction by 2035, has been validated by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) , making easyJet the first low cost airline worldwide to announce that its interim target has been validated by SBTi.

Key components of the roadmap

Zero emission technology:
While easyJet is looking at all options for zero carbon emission flight, based on today’s technological advances hydrogen shows the most potential for a short-haul airline like easyJet to truly decarbonise. easyJet plans to adopt zero carbon emission technology once available and the roadmap sets out that through the adoption of a suite of measures including zero carbon emission technology, once available, the airline would be able to reduce its carbon emissions per passenger, per kilometre by 78% by 2050 (vs 2019), with residual emissions addressed by carbon removal technology taking the airline to net-zero. easyJet’s ultimate ambition is to achieve zero carbon emission flying across its entire fleet.

Hydrogen has no operational carbon emissions. It also has the potential to significantly reduce non-CO2 emissions from flying. Over the past couple of years, the development of zero carbon emission technology has accelerated exponentially, and easyJet is working with partners, including Airbus, Rolls-Royce, GKN Aerospace, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions and Wright Electric, to accelerate this. It is a cross-industry effort and as a major European airline easyJet not only provides the airline and customer perspective to its partners but also demonstrates to aircraft manufacturers that there is demand for zero carbon emission aircraft.

Fleet renewal: Fleet renewal is crucial for decarbonisation as it replaces older aircraft with younger, more fuel-efficient models. easyJet will be making a list price investment of $21bn over the coming years to continue to renew its fleet. All 168 new aircraft deliveries will be Airbus NEO aircraft, joining the 59 NEO aircraft already in the fleet, that make easyJet one of the largest single brand operators of A320neo family aircraft in Europe. These aircraft are at least 15% more fuel efficient than the aircraft they replace and provide a 50% noise footprint reduction. Switching to more fuel-efficient current generation aircraft as well as upgauging to larger aircraft has a significant impact to reduce carbon emissions in the short term due to higher absolute fuel efficiency and lower emissions per seat.

Operational improvements and efficiencies: easyJet continues to operate its aircraft as efficiently as possible and is always looking for efficiency improvements. Today easyJet has announced a multi-million-pound fleet-wide investment into the latest aircraft software which will help the airline to achieve substantial and permanent carbon emission reductions in the short-term by enabling the optimisation of aircraft descents. This comes in addition to the use of AI and adjusting standard operating procedures, which helps to reduce fuel usage and therefore carbon emissions, for example single-engine taxiing on arrival and departure, using advanced weather information to improve navigation performance and engine washing to remove debris, which improves the air turbine performance. This is complemented by flight efficiency partnerships with key stakeholders such as Airbus, Collins Aerospace, NATS and Eurocontrol. easyJet has this year received the first A320neo from Airbus that is equipped with the latest Satellite Landing System (SLS) technology which helps to further improve the efficiency of its operations, reducing fuel usage.

Airspace modernisation: This is crucial for the entire industry as it has the biggest potential to achieve carbon reductions right now, as more direct flight paths lead to shorter flying times, which reduce fuel burn and resulting emissions. easyJet is working with stakeholders and public authorities across Europe to advocate for the modernisation of airspace, including projects such as the Single European Sky and the UK’s airspace modernisation programme being coordinated by the Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG). These important initiatives are necessary for a more environmentally-optimised and efficient air traffic management system. For example, the Single European Sky has stated an ambition to deliver 10% carbon emissions savings from European aviation. easyJet is one of founding members of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) 3 Joint Undertaking, an institutionalised European public-private partnership, to accelerate the delivery of the Digital European Sky. The airline has also recently been announced as the first airline evaluation partner for Iris, a ground-breaking air traffic management programme, led by Inmarsat, the global leader in satellite communications, together with the European Space Agency and Airbus, paving the way for more efficient air traffic management.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF): easyJet will use SAF as required, until its fleet has been transitioned to zero carbon emission aircraft, to achieve material lifecycle carbon emissions reductions in comparison to kerosene. Today easyJet has confirmed it has contracted all SAF volumes reflected in its roadmap for the next five years with its fuel partner Q8Aviation, one of Europe’s leading suppliers of jet fuel. Last year, easyJet was the first airline to operate flights out of Gatwick airport using a mixture of SAF (30% of the blend) and Jet A-1, supplied by Q8Aviation.

Carbon removal technology: easyJet has signed a Letter of Intent with Airbus to support the development of carbon removal technology, which captures carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and then stores it securely and permanently underground. easyJet is among the first airlines in the world to support this nascent technology which is recognised by climate scientists, including by the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, as critical to help the world go beyond climate mitigation and to support the achievement of net-zero by removing residual emissions.

The SBTi (Science Based Targets initiative) is a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which guides companies on their decarbonisation journeys, in line with the Paris Agreement. easyJet worked as part of the Technical Working Group (TWG) of dedicated experts from industry and NGOs who provided detailed input during the planning phase and on various drafts of the guidance and tool.

Investment into the roadmap

SBTi requires airlines to decarbonise within their own operation, thus it doesn’t take into account the use of out-of-sector carbon offsetting, or other market-based mechanisms such as the EU Emissions Trading System or CORSIA. In line with this, easyJet will transition its investment from out-of-sector carbon offsetting, which it has always been clear is a short-term measure, into supporting and facilitating the individual elements of its roadmap to make net-zero a reality, as demonstrated by the investments undertaken to-date. Since the launch of its carbon offsetting scheme, the airline has offset nearly 8.7 million tonnes of carbon emissions (19 Nov 19 – 30 June 22). easyJet will continue to offset on behalf of its customers for flights booked until the end of this year, with flights covered well into the next year. From January 2023, the airline will offer a voluntary offsetting option for its customers.

easyJet is undertaking a multi-million-pound investment into its partnership with Rolls-Royce to support the development of hydrogen combustion engine technology for narrowbody aircraft and has announced its intention to purchase future carbon removal credits through its partnership with Airbus. This comes in addition to the ongoing fleet renewal at easyJet to replace older aircraft with at least 15% more fuel-efficient Airbus NEO aircraft, which has a list price investment of $21bn, and a multi-million-pound short-term investment to achieve further operational efficiencies.

In addition, easyJet will invest in local environmental projects that support biodiversity to benefit the local communities it serves.

The airline will continuously review its sustainability investment to ensure it has the most impact.

Government action

easyJet is committed to playing its part and taking a leadership role in decarbonising the industry however, full decarbonisation cannot and will not happen without government support and easyJet is working with the industry and policymakers to support and accelerate the change that’s needed:

  • Supporting the development of zero carbon emission technology, this includes:
  1. Developing a regulatory framework – now – which rewards and incentivises aircraft manufacturers to produce aircraft that can operate carbon-free flights, such as those powered by hydrogen, and incentivises airlines to adopt the technology
  2. Creating investment and financial incentives for funding the development and scaling up of zero carbon emission technology
  3. Recognising of the role of green hydrogen in aviation by incorporating the requirements of aviation in UK and EU hydrogen strategies, as well as incorporating hydrogen as a SAF equivalent in the EU’s ReFuelEU Aviation proposal and the UK’s SAF mandate
  4. Investing into renewable energy to support the creation of green hydrogen for aviation
  5. Supporting the development of hydrogen supply and infrastructure at airports
  • Expanding effective carbon pricing, through the EU and UK Emissions Trading Systems, to all EEA and UK departures, and ringfencing a portion of the ETS revenues for decarbonising aviation
  • Linking passenger taxes to emissions to incentivise efficiency and the move towards zero carbon emission aircraft, and ringfencing a portion of tax revenues for decarbonising aviation
  • For the EU27 national governments to finally deliver on the Single European Sky project for airspace modernisation, or failing this, to make other rapid improvements in airspace efficiency. For the UK government to deliver on its stated ambitions for UK Airspace Modernisation
  • Recognition and incentivisation of the contribution of carbon removal technology to meet net-zero targets. Carbon removal credits should be equivalent to ETS allowances.
easyJet’s holistic approach to sustainability

Sustainability is a holistic issue, and easyJet has recently achieved IATA IEnvA Stage 2 accreditation, making it the first low-cost carrier worldwide to have a fully IATA IEnvA certified Environmental Management Systems (EMS). The IATA Environmental Assessment (IEnvA) programme is a globally recognised evaluation system designed to independently assess and help improve the environmental management of an airline.

Measures that easyJet has taken to mitigate the broader environmental impact from its operations include:

  • Eliminating more than 36 million single-use plastic items used on its flights and continuing to ensure that any residual waste is recycled as much as possible.
  • Offering a 50p discount on hot drinks for customers who bring their reusable cup.
  • The introduction of new crew uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles. Forty-five bottles go into each uniform – with the potential to prevent 2.7 million plastic bottles from ending up in landfill or in oceans over five years. The garments are fashioned from a high-tech material that is made using renewable energy sources.
  • Sustainability has been a key driver when making decisions on which suppliers easyJet works with. For its on-board range easyJet selects brands wanting to make a difference by reducing their use of plastic and their carbon emissions. To support a drive to operate more sustainably, production of food has been moved more locally, so the product will travel fewer miles to reach its destination, reducing its overall carbon footprint.
 
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