NetJets Europe starts program to offset carbon emissions

 - September 26, 2007, 8:05 AM

NetJets Europe is building carbon offsetting costs into its fractional ownership prices in a bid to become a carbon-neutral operation by 2012. Beginning October 1, all new clients and existing clients who renew their contracts will purchase carbon credits that cancel out the carbon produced when they take flights. Current customers will be asked to sign up for the program voluntarily as part of their existing contracts.

NetJets is also backing the group’s Carbon Initiative in the U.S., but customer participation will be entirely voluntary. In Europe, customers will see their flight-hour charges increase by about 0.5 percent and, on average, this will mean around $5,200 in additional costs over the course of a year.

Money raised from the offset program will fund research at Princeton University and the University of California into the development of an ultra-low-emission jet fuel that could be burned in current turbofans. As part of the wider Carbon Initiative, NetJets is supporting efforts to identify the best ways to develop and commercialize green aviation fuel, combining existing research into bio-fuels and alternative jet fuels with a focus on business jet applications.

At the same time, NetJets Europe is in the process of recruiting environmental management directors in Europe and the U.S. It has also appointed environmental advisory boards on both sides of the Atlantic, consisting of experts in the field and business leaders (some of whom are customers).

With its fleet flying more hours each year, the fractional provider is also trying to reduce the carbon impact of its operations by investing in fuel-efficient jets such as the Hawker Beechcraft Hawker 4000 and the Dassault Falcon 7X. It is also spending $3.5 million to fit winglets on its Falcon 2000EX fleet to reduce fuel burn by up to 5 percent.

The European Commission (EC) intends to impose emissions trading on the commercial air transport sector, starting with European Union operators in 2011, and extending it to any operator making flights within European airspace beginning in 2012. Earlier this year, the commission said this would apply to any aircraft weighing at least 5.7 metric tons (12,566 pounds), which affects the whole NetJets Europe fleet, and those of many European charter operators.

The European Business Aviation Association has argued that it is impractical for relatively small operators to implement emissions trading procedures due to the complex paperwork this would require and the fact that its carbon output is not as predictable as that of the airlines. The group is lobbying for the weight threshold to be raised to 20 metric tons (44,091 pounds) and is urging operators to adopt voluntary emissions trading schemes to show that they are serious about stemming the environmental impact of aviation.

In Europe, NetJets is working with UK-based carbon offset manager EcoSecurities, which invests the money raised from the increased charges only in projects that achieve carbon dioxide reductions that would not have happened without carbon financing and that are certified under the Kyoto Clean Development Mechanism.
In the U.S., NetJets is funding community-based initiatives such as the Solar Schools Project in California, which will see photovoltaic cells installed on the roofs of public schools and other educational institutions.