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Several Major US Airlines Pledge Net-Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050

United States Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Apr 9, 2021

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

Big news for travelers this week as Airlines for America, the trade group representing 10 US-based carriers, has pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, Reuters reported. Included in the commitment are major players United, American Airlines, and Delta, along with seven other commercial airlines large and small. The group’s goal, according to the report, is to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, and it intends to work alongside the Biden administration to begin working towards this ambitious goal.

How exactly can an airline whose business model requires spewing jet fuel into the atmosphere reach net-zero emissions, you ask? That’s a good question — one that requires heavy leaning on the term “net” rather than “gross” (total) emissions. Of course, it would be impossible for an airline to completely eliminate all emissions save for rapid advancements in full-electric commercial aviation, which is likely decades away. But by striving for net-zero, the airlines can take consistent steps to reduce and offset their emissions slowly over the next three decades.

This can be done by offsetting carbon emissions, which will undoubtedly be part of the Airlines for America plan. The group also said it intends to pursue rapid development and deployment of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), a source of jet fuel made from sustainable feedstocks rather than fossil fuels. The burning of SAF emits far fewer emissions than burning traditional jet fuel.

Alongside Airlines for America, multiple other industry groups have made similar pledges in an effort to reduce the emissions resulting from air travel. The European air industry plans to reach net-zero by 2050 as well. Air travel currently accounts for about two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Air Transport Action Group.

Zero-emissions aviation took a separate step forward this week as Bill Gates announced his support for hybrid planes via a venture called ZeroAvia. These hybrid planes would run on a hybrid hydrogen-electric powertrain, eliminating the need for jet fuel at all, according to GeekWire.

More climate wins

Washington, DC, formally passed a zero-waste bill into law this past month, Waste Dive reported, aiming to drastically reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. Part of the law includes cutting down on plastic utensils and other food-service waste. How the bill will be funded remains uncertain.

Volkswagen announced it would switch all of its MEB (modular electric drive matrix) electric vehicles to be compatible with bidirectional charging beginning next year, Electrek reported. Bidirectional charging means that power can be taken out of the vehicle and moved to the grid during times when the car is not in use and the grid needs power, and owners of the vehicle could receive payment for the use of their battery power. The power could be used to power homes, other cars, and additional needs.

We close this week with good news for java hounds. Coffee pulp can be used to boost reforestation on degraded lands, studies have shown, working to improve soil quality, plant diversity, and rapidly growing canopy cover on land that lacked it before. As the world needs rapid reforestation to offset the damage done to the Amazon and elsewhere, we’ll raise a mug to that.

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