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How to mitigate business aviation's climate impact
The ACA S&I Group explains why a CO2 direct emissions-only model does not provide an impactful basis for offsetting. It is better to offset direct and indirect CO2e, as Yann-Guillaume Jaccard explains.
Yann-Guillaume Jaccard is a member of The ACA S&I Group and Simply Jet ceo and co-founder.

One of the goals of the Sustainability & Innovation Group (S&I) at The Air Charter Association (The ACA) is to help member companies and external stakeholders get a deeper understanding of the key avenues of improvement available to our industry to reduce its negative impact on climate change. In doing so it has decided to focus on five distinct areas: emissions offsetting; SAF; electric flight; new alternative technologies; and flight efficiency (engines and aircraft choice, route planning). The ACA S&I Group member and Simply Jet CEO and co-founder Yann-Guillaume Jaccard takes a look at emissions offsetting in the first of a series of articles.

In simple terms, the aim of emissions offsetting is to invest in and develop a project that either takes carbon out of the atmosphere, by reforestation for example, or reduces the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) that are released into the atmosphere, perhaps by helping communities switch to solar panels rather than using oil heaters.

The main issue with emissions offsetting is that it does not fix the underlying problem; private aviation damages the environment due to its very poor passengers flown/fuel burnt ratio.

Offsetting does, however, provide a very effective temporary solution to reduce the industry’s negative impact while longer term solutions are in development. Breakthroughs don’t happen overnight, and this is particularly true in aviation because of the safety and regulatory constraints that need to be overcome to push new technology to the market.

Emissions offsetting can be very effective indeed, but only if the organisation in charge of funding and/or developing the projects meets a certain number of criteria. It is a complex and not particularly transparent market, so the S&I Group is currently finalising publication of a comprehensive guide that will be made available to The ACA member companies. Its purpose is to help businesses find a trustworthy and effective emissions offsetting partner.

When selecting a partner, first of all one must understand the main differences in the programme offsetting calculations. There are three commonly found models. The first being CO2 direct emissions offsetting - the most basic scheme, where carbon dioxide alone is taken into account. This model will very often be based on a ‘from fuel tank to air’ calculation and will strictly measure CO2 emissions resulting from the fuel burn of the aircraft once engines are on, up until the moment they are off.

Then there is CO2e direct emissions offsetting - a more complete scheme that calculates the impact of CO2 and other GHG and chemical byproducts of burning fuel in the air such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, hydrocarbon and soot. The working group considers this model to be a great step forward in fairly assessing the impact of your business activities, and indeed most companies choose this model for their offsetting schemes.

The third option is CO2e direct + indirect emissions offsetting - the most thorough model used by only a few companies, typically those who have a team of in-house scientists to run the proper calculations. This method takes into account the emissions outlined in the two models above, and adds in the indirect emissions and impacts of flight such as those derived from the production and the transport of kerosene to the aircraft, those derived from the infrastructure around the operation of the aircraft, and the impact of contrails and generated clouds on local climate.

The S&I Group is of the opinion that opting for a supplier that uses a CO2 direct emissions only model as a calculation basis is not particularly impactful; opting for a supplier that uses a model offsetting CO2e is satisfactory; but opting for a supplier that uses model CO2e direct and indirect offsetting is very effective.

Several key questions then need to be asked of a supplier to evaluate the credibility of their programme. These questions relate to their corporate governance and financing (whether for or not for profit, absence of conflict of interests, provenance of funding); their project management model (are projects run internally or outsourced, are they funded prior to or after completion); as well as their scientific background (are offsets based on third party estimates or calculated in-house).

How thoroughly the analysis is done will, of course, depend on the time and resources available as you look to start offsetting. But it should not be taken lightly as it can have a tremendous impact on the actual effectiveness of your efforts.

However, whichever supplier and model is selected, it is crucial to communicate your offsetting activities in a way that is transparent, understandable and accurate.

The credibility of our industry is at stake and passengers need clarity. If you are going to claim an offset of 100 or 200 per cent of emissions for a specific flight, then that claim should be accompanied by a note explaining the basis for the emissions calculation.

The S&I Group and The ACA at large aim to be facilitators of climate change, as well as a source of information and advice to the industry in years to come, to help it transition to greener charters.

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