Budget airline easyJet has published plans to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The announcement came as its CEO said the plans, while ambitious, were achievable but would need UK and European governments to play their part in supporting the aviation industry’s efforts.
The company’s statement came following the airline’s commitment to the UN-backed Race to Zero last year. easyJet said 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.
Work is already underway with partner Rolls-Royce which is making the final preparations for the first ground tests of a hydrogen powered engine. This is part of easyJet’s 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 airline’s roadmap features a combination of fleet renewal, operational efficiencies, airspace modernisation, sustainable aviation fuel and carbon removal technology.
EasyJet CEO, Johan Lundgren, 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.
“We are 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 out entire fleet.
“I am delighted this ambition is soon moving one step closer today, as our partner Rolls Royce is making final preparations for the first hydrogen engine ground tests to commence.
“Decarbonising aviation is a major undertaking for which thew 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 for them.
“Now we have our roadmap we can ensure we are focused on the things that rea 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 airline said: “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.”
It added 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 $21bilion 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, which make easyJet one of the largest single brand operators of A320neo family aircraft in Europe.
In terms of a wider industry easyJet said there was an urgent need for 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,” it added. “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.”
easyJet added it will use sustainable aviation fuel (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.