Airlines have come under increasing pressure to reduce emissions in the face of the growing 'flight shame' movement
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, Nov 19 (Reuters) - EasyJet's pledge to offset its carbon emissions isn't the end of its efforts to clean up its act, the budget airline's chief executive said, adding it will look into hybrid and electric planes amid criticism the aviation sector isn't doing enough.
On Tuesday, easyJet said it would become the first major airline to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across its whole network through offsetting of its flights.
Critics of such schemes say that paying to carry on flying is no solution to ending emissions in an industry that has been a polluter for decades.
The aviation industry accounts for over 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and if left unchecked emissions are expected to rise as passenger and flight numbers increase.
EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren said the plan to spend 25 million pounds ($32.35 million) a year offsetting emissions was the "right thing to do" and such measures were being increasingly demanded by investors and customers alike.
But he said that partnerships with Airbus and Wright Electric to develop hybrid and electric planes, as well as looking at operational efficiencies, showed that the airline was not complacent in thinking that the battle had been won.
"We're not claiming here that we have the perfect endgame solution to what we do. But there's a choice: whether you are going to do something, or you are not going to do something," he said at a news conference in London.
"It's down to somebody to really make a stand on this and we are actually encouraging every airline to follow suit."
EasyJet said that it would undertake the offsetting through accredited schemes, including projects to do with forest conservation and renewable energy.
Lundgren said he had encountered the "flygskam" - or "flight shame" - movement in his native Sweden, which has shone the spotlight on the emissions that the industry produces and encourages people not to fly.
International airlines have signed up to the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) to cap CO2 emissions at 2020 levels through offsetting. British Airways owner IAG has pledged to offset its domestic flights.
EasyJet's plan is more ambitious than both of those schemes but faced criticism from environmental campaigners.
"Airlines paying others so that they can go on polluting is not a solution to aviation's climate problem," said Andrew Murphy, aviation manager at environment group Transport and Environment.
"Decades of airlines' unchecked emissions growth shows governments need to step up and regulate aviation's climate impact by ending the sector's tax privileges and mandating clean fuels."
($1 = 0.7729 pounds)
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Additional reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by Josephine Mason and Alexandra Hudson)
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