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Airbus reveals lifetime carbon emissions data for its planes

Image credit: DT

Planemaker Airbus has started reporting data on the estimated emissions produced by its aircraft over their lifetime, in what it claims is a first for the aviation sector.

Investors are increasingly pressuring firms to not only report the carbon emissions associated with their operations, but also those that will be generated by the products they create.

Airbus’s landmark emissions data shows that the 1,429 planes sold in 2019 and 2020 will produce well over 1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide during their lifetimes.

For the 863 jets it delivered in 2019, Airbus estimated lifetime emissions of 740 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent based on an average aircraft lifespan of 22 years. That includes 130 million tonnes related to the production of fuel burned in flight.

In 2020, it delivered 566 aircraft with estimated lifetime emissions of 440 million tonnes, including 80 million for fuel.

The new data has been coupled with an announcement from the firm that it is working towards more climate-friendly plane technology, including a hybrid-electric propulsion system.

While experts say hydrogen can only power relatively small planes at first, broad adoption of the technology could mitigate infrastructure challenges around the fuel and galvanise further investment.

Last year, Airbus demonstrated three zero-emission aircraft concepts which it says could enter service by 2035 that primarily use hydrogen as their main source of fuel.

In late 2019, the Coalition for the Energy of the Future was launched in France with the aim of accelerating the development of future technologies to create sustainable transport. While French firms including Carrefour, Crédit Agricole and Engie joined the initiative from the beginning, Airbus finally joined earlier this month, alongside Bureau Veritas and PSA International.

One of the Coalition’s main projects is the development of green hydrogen, which is hydrogen produced using renewable energy or other carbon-neutral methods instead of fossil fuels. This will be a necessary step for Airbus’ proposed aircraft to be truly carbon neutral.

Many environmental campaigners argue that flying needs to be curbed full stop in order to have a meaningful impact on climate change, in addition to any shift towards greener technologies. Aviation is currently responsible for around 2.5 per cent of human-induced CO2 emissions and 12 per cent of CO2 from transport.

According to the company, Airbus aims to consume 20 per cent less energy and emit 40 per cent less CO2 from its more than 70 sites by 2030, compared with 2015.

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