Airline Carbon Offsets

The QAS audits airline carbon offsets and adds publicly available information to compare airlines with a traffic light system. Only five airlines have QAS-Certified offsets but you can also find other providers who offset flights with QAS Certification here.

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QAS-Certified

QAS-Certified – QAS-certification is only awarded to carbon offsets that are independently audited to the highest standards every year. To be certified, carbon offsets must use accurate calculators, use high quality projects and reconcile all offsets within 15 months. To help buyers, important information must be provided at or before the point of sale such as price and project certification.
Not QAS-Certified – airline carbon offset products that have not been audited by the QAS. However you can use this comparison table to find out how they compare.

Emissions calculation

Real – uses actual data from historical fuel burn to give the most accurate calculation of emissions for given city pairs.
Modelled – uses the distance between airports and known emissions factors calculate emissions. This is also an accurate method of calculation, but not quite as good as real.
Average – uses average distances flown by the airline, either overall or in a particular region. With a few exceptions this is not an accurate way to calculate the emissions for your flight and probably doesn’t meet the criteria for a carbon offset. As an alternative you could consider carbon offsets for your flight that are calculated accurately and QAS-certified.
Unclear – information not provided so impossible to know if emissions are calculated accurately or not. As an alternative you could consider carbon offsets for your flight that are calculated accurately and QAS-certified.
Suggestion – the airline suggests an amount not specifically related to your flight. This makes it a donation and not a carbon offset. As an alternative you could consider carbon offsets for your flight that are calculated accurately and QAS-certified.

Part of booking

Yes – carbon offsets are offered during ticket booking.
Separate – carbon offsets are offered on the airline’s own website but not during ticket booking.
3rd party – carbon offsets are offered through a third party on a different website.

Project method

Biomass – Biomass projects convert waste material from plants or animals to a renewable energy source, either directly or through the generation of biofuel. Forestry-based biomass can be problematic – so make sure projects have been properly vetted by a reputable independent organisation like the QAS or the Gold Standard.
Cookstoves – helping families in the developing world who would otherwise cook on open fires. Popular due to co-benefits such as reducing illness from indoor smoke and avoiding knock on effects from deforestation.
Methane capture – methane causes 28x more global warming over 100yrs compared to CO2 so these projects aim to capture it to avoid its release into the atmosphere.
REDD+ – forestation projects carefully designed with failure mitigation built in.
Small hydro – renewable energy hydro projects replacing fossil fuel burning on s smaller scale to avoid the damage that larger dams can cause to the local environment.
Solar – renewable energy solar projects replacing fossil fuel burning.
Wind – renewable energy wind projects replacing fossil fuel burning.
Portfolio – a variety of projects which may change over time. May be difficult to be sure which are currently used and the standards they meet.
Non-REDD forestation – forestation projects without REDD+ certification. Risk of project failure without mitigation and subsequent adverse attention.  As an alternative you could consider carbon offsets for your flight that use high quality project methods and are QAS-certified.
Not provided – information not provided so impossible to know if project methods are valid or not. As an alternative you could consider carbon offsets for your flight that use high quality project methods and are QAS-certified.

Project ID

CDM – rigorous standard set up by the United Nations. Uses CER certificates.
Gold Standard – robust standard particularly focused on benefits for the local community, uses either CER or VER certificates.
VERRA – formerly VCS, wide variety of projects covered by VER certificates.
ACR – American Carbon Registry – various domestic projects.
No – Not covered by any of the above. Other standards may apply but often lack the rigour of the main international standards. As an alternative you could consider carbon offsets for your flight that use high quality international project standards and are QAS-certified.

Price

The price you pay to offset your flight is often a trade off between the location of the project and its efficiency in removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. A carbon offset project in the developing world can make more difference per dollar spent because it’s cheaper. On the other hand projects which have more benefits for the local community can also drive up the cost. We have worked out the cost for every airline carbon offset project in US dollars so you can compare them directly. As an alternative you could consider carbon offsets for your flight that use more efficient projects in the developing world or have more benefits for the local community and are QAS-certified.

Airline carbon offset programs must meet certain basic criteria for inclusion in this table:

1 They must offer accurate emissions calculations for each flight, for example based on real data (historical fuel burn data), based on modelled data (estimates using emissions factors, city pairs, etc) or based on averages if the airline network consists of similar distance city pairs. If offsets aren’t based on accurate calculations, or use donations which fail to match or exceed the actual emissions, they are excluded from the table. Examples include Air France, Brussels Airlines, Delta, Finnair & Ryanair.

2 In order to maximise uptake the offsets should ideally be included in the airlines booking process as part of a single ticket transaction. Should the offset be offered through a third party website the emissions calculator must reflect the airline’s historical fuel burn data (marked ‘real’ in the emissions column of the table). Airline carbon offset programs using third party provider websites without calculations specific to the airline aren’t providing a separate service. Examples include Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Jetblue & Virgin Atlantic.

Note that airlines which use the same offset program as their parent company are not listed separately. Examples include Cathay Dragon (parent company Cathay Pacific), Jetstar (parent Qantas), Edelweiss & Swiss Airlines (parent Lufthansa Group).

As of September 11th 2019, only 18 airlines were running carbon offset programs which meet the criteria for inclusion in the table.