Charter broker aims for cleaner skies

 - September 12, 2006, 8:39 AM

Executive charter broker Flightplan has started making voluntary payments to offset the environmental impact of flights it books on behalf of clients. From its commissions, the Farnborough, UK-based firm gives $14 (£7.50) for each metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by a flight to an organization called Climate Care (www.climatecare.org), which invests the money in various environmental sustainability projects, such as funding energy-efficiency programs in the developing world.

The payment amount is based on an internationally recognized CO2 emissions formula drawn up by Britain’s Oxford University. As an example, a Learjet 45 emits approximately 3.5 metric tons of CO2 per flight hour. On this basis, Flightplan would pay $100 (£52.50) to Climate Care for a customer’s two-hour flight in this aircraft.

Several airlines now offer their passengers the option of making a voluntary environmental offset payment to compensate for their share of CO2 emissions on any given flight. But Flightplan believes it is the first aviation service provider in Europe to pay the charge on behalf of its clients.

“We have taken the view that climate-change prevention should no longer be optional, and we hope to lead our industry and provide a catalyst for change by offsetting the entire CO2 emissions produced by our private charter flights,” explained managing director David Lacy.

The move has given Flightplan a direct incentive to charter more modern, fuel-efficient aircraft for its clients. According to Lacy, the initiative by his small company alone will offset an estimated 4,000 metric tons of CO2 in the first year.

The European Commission wants to make emissions trading mandatory for the aviation industry in the next four to six years. Under proposals presented last year, aircraft operators flying in the airspace of the 25-state European Union (EU) would have to start paying for CO2 emissions from their engines.

In a report presented to the EC on July 29 last year, Dutch consultants CE Delft concluded that it would be feasible and legal to implement emissions trading for all operators. However, the company recommended that all VFR movements and flights by aircraft weighing less than 19,000 pounds should not be subject to emissions trading requirements. The weight cut-off would exempt aircraft such as the Hawker 400XP and Citation Encore, but it would include other popular business jets, such as
the Learjet 40.

CE Delft proposed a system whereby aircraft operators would bid for the emissions permits they require. Under an alternative system, operators would be allocated a set number emissions permits and would then buy or sell these depending on their needs. In assessing the possible cost impact of emissions trading, CE Delft assumed emissions charges at rates of between $12 and $36 (?10 to ?30) per metric ton of CO2.

According to CE Delft, while the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions fell by 5.5 percent between 1990 and 2003, CO2 emissions from aviation within the EU increased by 73 percent. According to EC statistics, air transport is the fastest-growing source of CO2 emissions even though it currently accounts for just 3 percent of global emissions. Air transport is projected to account for 15 percent of worldwide CO2 emissions by 2050.