EasyJet’s decision to stop offsetting is a great way to save £40m, not the planet.

Written by
February 22, 2024
5 min read

Easyjet pioneered the idea of carbon off-setting flights, and for the last three years has offset over 8.7m tonnes of CO2, which is likely to have cost them in the region of 40 - £80m.

Which in turn means that they have either reduced or removed over 8 million tonnes of CO2, using verified carbon credits, so why stop doing something so amazing.

Their (current) argument is that they are going to focus on their science based targets and drive down their CO2 footprint with ambitious and innovative technology.

Sounds like a great plan, their new hydrogen engines, new low co2 fuel, their new carbon capture initiatives etc. are all brilliant, but the giant catch, it won’t be carbon net-zero till 2050.

Surely this type of (tail) spin, isn’t right. The sums just don’t add up.

If we just take the next 3 years, and assume the demand for flights will increase (remember we’ve had a huge reduction in the total number of flight, so we argue that we’ll see a huge increase in their CO2 footprint.

But they are fighting to heavily reduce and avoid. So let’s keep the prediction that they need to remove the same amount, 8 million tonnes.

That’s 8m tonnes of CO2 bouncing around the ether we just can’t see and we can visualise 1 tonne as a small hot air balloon (a 10m sphere).

black hot air balloon under white sky during daytime
Photo by Boopathi Rajaa Nedunchezhiyan on Unsplash

We could take their 8m tonnes and be able to float them all the way around the equator and all the way around the north and south pole.

A total of 80,000 hot air balloons all touching each other twice round the world .

If CO2 smelt like sewage, or if it was black like coal smoke, would we all be so accepting of the fact that EasyJet can pump the atmosphere with a deadly pollutant, and just accept that they are trying to do their best for the next 28 years, and say there’s not much they can do about it.

Yes, carbon offsets can be problematic, and not all carbon credits are equal, but purchasing reputable credits, via Gold Standard or Vera, and focussing on removal credits or reputable reduction projects is better than doing nothing.

Surely £50m spent helping fund reforestation projects would make the short term difference that we need. Can we really afford to wait 30 years?

If easyJet planted 166m trees, every three years it would help rebuild the three critical eco-systems; community, marine and land ecosystems that are Code Red in in so many places across the world due to deforestation.

This is also likely remove c.10m tonnes of CO2 over 3 years, and 500kg for each tree in their life-time.

Not all carbon offsets are equal and you can argue about reduction versus removal credits, but when bought via credible partners like Verra or Gold Standard they do make a difference. A wholesale move away from all carbon credits is not the answer (in the short term).

Yes easyJet need to make some big bets and focus their resources, but stopping offsetting (or more importantly passing the responsibility onto their passengers feels wrong).

As passengers we have to take some responsibility for our carbon emissions, so why not just put a 50p carbon levy against every passenger and use that for short-term carbon removal projects?

Climate change is complex but does this feel like they are just kicking the problem down the road.

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Written by
February 22, 2024
5 min read