Nigerian airlines lag global peers in carbon reduction

In a deliberate response to criticism against global aviation’s contributions to greenhouse gases and climate change, foreign airlines are making efforts to reduce carbon emissions while Nigerian airlines are missing in the conversations. As foreign airlines announced a goal to reduce their carbon emissions to net-zero within 30 years (from 2020), experts say the coronavirus […]

Nigerian airlines lag global peers in carbon reduction
Nigerian airlines

In a deliberate response to criticism against global aviation’s contributions to greenhouse gases and climate change, foreign airlines are making efforts to reduce carbon emissions while Nigerian airlines are missing in the conversations.

As foreign airlines announced a goal to reduce their carbon emissions to net-zero within 30 years (from 2020), experts say the coronavirus pandemic era has acted as a catalyst for many airlines to do more to cushion the changes in climate.

For instance, Delta Airlines, JetBlue, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines are investing in reducing carbon emissions.

According to a study in the journal Atmospheric Environment, airlines account for 3.5 percent of all emissions and the transportation sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

But Nigerian airlines are lagging in efforts to reduce their contributions to global warming.

Seyi Adewale, chief executive officer – Mainstream Cargo Limited said many Nigerian airlines still use paper packs to serve food to their passengers onboard flight

“You can imagine the tree-related amount of paper pack wastage our airline contributes per day. This and similar knowledgeable actions will immediately reduce our contribution to global warming,” Adewale said.

According to him, there is no airline sponsoring the awareness of greenhouse gases/nature preservation in Nigeria as there are no direct spotlights on this.

“Moving to a more technical aspect, we do not have any regulation in place or incentives to airlines to reduce their carbon emissions. For example, do domestic airlines have a choice on the type of fuel to purchase? I mean sustainable aviation fuel. The answer is also No!

Read also: 3 tools for SMEs to survive in Nigeria’s financial landscape

“However, we see airlines such as Green Africa Airways Limited having aircraft types that mimic the likes of Easy Jet and potentially in design and operations has the capability to give a significantly lower carbon emission compared to the other domestic airlines,” he added.

Easy Jets emit approximately 75g of CO2 per passenger-km and this is very remarkable compared to informed airlines that at best do 115g of CO2 per passenger-km.

In addition, the procurement of new aircraft by Air Peace and Ibom Air would improve our ratings in terms of our contribution to lowering aviation carbon emissions,” Adewale said.

For some years now, foreign airlines have focused on carbon offset programmes, such as contributing to projects that plant or preserve carbon dioxide-absorbing trees. Some airlines, including Delta and JetBlue, are still relying, at least in part, on voluntary use of carbon offsets in the near term.

Lauren Riley, managing director of environmental affairs and sustainability for United Airlines, said airlines don’t have a readily available solution as road vehicles can more easily be converted to run on electricity, but the path to zero is more of a choose-your-adventure story for airlines.

Carbon offsets do yield environmental benefits, but they are not enough to get to net zero. And they do not shift behaviours or decisions within an airline industry, since an offsets arrangement is more of a financial transaction conducted outside an airline’s supply chain or operations. Getting to zero, Riley said, will take investing in possible solutions.

“The conversation needs to be about how we can fly the skies sustainably,” she said. “We should all be responsible agents in providing and connecting our customers to their destinations in a manner that doesn’t necessarily cause climate change.”

But Delta Airline in 2020 said it was committing $1 billion over the next 10 years on its journey to mitigate all emissions from its global business, going forward.

The airline said it will invest in driving innovation, advancing clean air travel technologies, accelerating the reduction of carbon emissions and waste, and establishing new projects to mitigate the balance of emissions.

“There is no substitute for the power that travel has to connect people, which our world needs today more than ever before. As we connect customers around the globe, it is our responsibility to deliver on our promise to bring people together and ensure the utmost care for our environment,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO.

“The time is now to accelerate our investments and establish an ambitious commitment that the entire Delta team will deliver.”

Delta’s approach to tackling carbon reduction and sustainability reflects the focus and rigor it has become known for, and that it used to build a financially secure airline,” Bastian said.

JetBlue in August 2020, followed through on its commitment to go carbon neutral on all domestic flights.

On July 1, 2021, the airline began offsetting its carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) from jet fuel for all domestic JetBlue-operated flights. JetBlue views carbon offsetting as a bridge to other industry-wide environmental improvements like fuel with lower emissions.

United Airlines announced in December a multimillion-dollar investment in a project to remove carbon dioxide from the air through a technology called “direct air capture.” The direct air capture plant, according to United, would sequester 1 million tons of carbon dioxide annually — the rough equivalent of 40 million trees.

On how Nigerian airlines can reduce CO2 emissions, Seyi Adewale said “Nigerian airlines will do well in respect of lowering carbon emissions by getting trained and aware on what contributes to greenhouse gases, sponsoring events and activities that educate the populace on greenhouse gases and procure new and more carbon-emission efficient aircraft.

“Government must provide incentives to airlines regarding lowering their carbon emissions, develop a template for same and give incentives or be a facilitator of the supply of sustainable aviation fuel and develop long term focused regulation on greenhouse gases.”