Air France Accelerates CO2 Emissions Targets for The ‘New Generation’ of Sustainable Travelers

air france act
Courtesy Nicolas J Leclercq | Unsplash

In its latest effort to reduce emissions and become a more sustainable airline, Air France has launched a new three-pronged strategy, the Air France ACT.

Air France says it is launching “Air France ACT”, the airline’s new CO2 emissions reduction strategy and part of its 2050 target to achieve net-zero emissions. The new strategy includes reducing direct emissions generated by Air France operations, reductions in indirect upstream and downstream emissions, and supporting atmospheric CO2 capture projects.

The Air France ACT “embodies the transparent, pragmatic and science-based approach” adopted by the company “to ensure its environmental transition through concrete and measurable actions,” the company said in an email to Ethos.

Chief among its sustainability efforts, Air France is aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent per passenger per kilometer by 2030 compared to 2019 numbers.

“This objective excludes so-called ‘offsetting’ actions to consider measures that exclusively reduce direct and indirect emissions.,” the airline says. “It corresponds to a 12 percent reduction in the company’s total emissions between 2019 and 2030, in line with expected changes in activity, after a six percent reduction achieved between 2005 and 2019.”

In a video accompanying the announcement, the airline points to younger generations and their expectations that businesses do more to fight climate change and become more sustainable.

The news comes after an announcement last week that Italian luxury fashion house Valentino pledged its participation in Air France’s sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) program in an effort to reduce its travel impact.

“We are pleased to partner with Air France and KLM on the SAF programme, whose green transition goals we fully share and support,” Jacopo Venturini, CEO of Valentino, said in a statement. 

“As a brand, we are proud to add our voice to promote positive change. We are convinced that supporting the research and development of alternative solutions to reduce CO2 emissions is fundamental to continue supporting sustainable fuel production.”

Sustainable aviation fuel

Earlier this year, Air France announced it was implementing a surcharge for sustainable aviation fuel on all Air France and KLM flights. For economy travelers, that surcharge ranges from €1 to €4 per flight, and increases to €1.5 to €12 for business class, depending on flight distance. The surcharge is also added to flights from subsidiary airline KLM.

“In the absence of industrial production, the cost of using sustainable aviation fuels is four to eight times higher than that of fossil fuels,” Air France-KLM said in a statement in January.

air france sustainable fuel
Image courtesy Air France

The airline says decarbonizing the industry, which produces about 2.5 percent of all global CO2 emissions, will take time and “be difficult.” It will be a group effort, it says, relying on “close cooperation between the different stakeholders: aircraft manufacturers, engine manufacturers, fuel suppliers, airports, air traffic control, public authorities, research institutes, and academia.”

Air France is basing its trajectory on the Science-Based Target initiative’s assessment method. Those targets are based on the Paris Agreement’s targets of keeping temperatures below 2°C—and ideally below 1.5°C in order to avert climate-related disasters.

Reducing emissions

Air France has recently begun shifting to lighter aircraft in its fleet, including Airbus A220 and Airbus A350. By 2030, it says 70 percent of its fleet will be made up of lighter aircrafts. The Airbus planes are more fuel-efficient, producing 25 percent fewer emissions than other aircraft. They also reduce noise pollution by 33 percent.

With its recent surcharge, and industry-wide efforts to adopt more SAF, Air France says its shift to the fuel will help reduce CO2 emissions by 80 percent over the fuel life cycle. Current regulations for planes fueling in France require SAF to make up one percent of fuel. Air France has set a 2030 target to make ten percent of all fuel SAF and 63 percent by 2050.

net-zero air travel
Courtesy George Khelashvili via Motion Array

The airline is implementing other efforts, too, including one-engine taxiing when possible, AI-optimized flight paths, and continuous descent in cooperation with the air traffic control authorities. It says these initiatives can reduce emissions by as much as two to three percent per year.

It’s also looking to reduce its environmental footprint in the cabins, too, with seasonal and locally-grown produce, and encouraging passengers to pre-select dishes prior to flight to reduce food waste. By the end of the year, it will have removed 90 percent of single-use plastic over 2018 numbers.

“At the same time, Air France is evolving, and its customers’ behaviour and relationship to travel is changing,” the airline says. “Whether they aspire to show more restraint by travelling less often and staying for longer periods or combining business and leisure travel, Air France is committed to supporting customers by giving them the means to act at their level, by notably investing in its sustainable aviation fuel programme beyond regulatory requirements.”

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