Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific launches carbon credits scheme for passengers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2007, 12:00am

Cathay Pacific Airways yesterday became the first Asian airline to allow passengers to voluntarily buy carbon credits to offset the greenhouse gasses released by their air travel.

Cathay in March first announced plans to create a carbon offset programme for its 20 million passengers per year and in January the airline began to buy credits to offset all the carbon emissions from the business travel of its non-cabin crew staff. The programme includes subsidiary Dragonair.

'We felt that customers expect us to have this kind of voluntary carbon offset option available to them,' said Linden Coppell, Cathay's environmental manager.

Customers who want to buy credits must go to Cathay's 'Fly greener' website and enter the details of their flight, and the site will then calculate the number of tonnes of carbon emissions they are responsible for. Offset credits can then be bought using various currencies or Asia Miles.

An economy class journey from Hong Kong to London produces 1.62 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, and buying credits to offset the damage caused to Earth will cost HK$122.78, with offsets for a business class seat on the same flight costing HK$184.17 and first class HK$245.56.

The price of the carbon credits will vary depending on which projects Cathay chooses to buy credits from. Carbon credits are produced when a factory, electricity generator or other carbon emitter reduces their emissions and has that reduction verified by a third party. That verified reduction can then be packaged into credits and sold to buyers such as Cathay, which then sells them on to their passengers.

The airline is paying for all the costs of the programme and will not profit from the donations made by passengers.

'It was much harder than I though it would be,' Ms Coppell said of engineering the programme. 'It's not an easy process.'

She said the airline was now working on expanding the programme to include its freight customers and to incorporate the offset option into the ticket-buying process.

Cathay is the first big Asian airline to offer such a programme, but other leading airlines such as British Airways and Lufthansa offer similar offset credit plans. However, Cathay is unique in running the programme itself rather than using an intermediary.

'We want to look for the projects ourselves and make sure they are verified, as well as track the programme ourselves,' Ms Coppell said, adding that the airline prefers to find carbon credit projects in the Pearl River Delta.

Cathay's fleet of aircraft, not including those of Dragonair, produced 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide last year.

By comparison, California's wildfires last month are estimated to have released about eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide.