Wizz Air fears carbon offsetting not enough to reach net-zero target

Airline offers customers the chance to have trees planted whenever they book flight

FILE PHOTO: CEO of Wizz Air, Jozsef Varadi speaks during the unveiling ceremony of the 100th plane of its fleet at Budapest Airport, Hungary, June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo
Powered by automated translation

Budget airline Wizz Air has said carbon offsetting is not a long-term solution for the industry to achieve net zero, despite offering such a programme to its customers.

The company, which has its headquarters in Budapest, Hungary, runs a scheme which allows customers to track their carbon footprint and support eco-conscious projects each time they book a flight.

This week, Wizz Air’s chief executive Jozsef Varadi caused a stir by calling carbon offsetting “greenwashing” and “a bit of a joke”.

The airline sought to clarify his comments and said other efforts must be made by the industry to reduce damage to the environment.

“We are not supportive of carbon offsetting as an ultimate solution to reduce our environmental footprint,” a Wizz Air spokeswoman told The National.

“We are more focused on technologies and the most efficient operations that will have a greater impact on tackling carbon emissions.

“Although there are some high-quality, verified offsetting schemes out there – like the choice we offer to our customers – we do not believe this option by itself provides a long-term solution for the industry to achieve net zero.”

Launched in November 2020, Wizz Air’s carbon offsetting scheme allows people to calculate the carbon footprint of their flights and make a donation to a registered offsetting scheme.

Options include support for a tree-planting programme in Uganda and a project in Ecuador which recovers and repurposes landfill methane to produce clean electricity.

Speaking at industry conference World Routes this week, Mr Varadi ridiculed carbon offsetting and appeared to be unsure about whether his company runs such a scheme.

Asked by Euronews Green why his airline continues to run a carbon offsetting scheme in light of his views, Mr Varadi turned to his chief of staff and said, “Do we?”

After receiving confirmation from his colleague, he said: “Just imagine that you fly a crappy old aircraft, you pollute the world like hell and then you [plant] two trees and you think you are done?”

On its website, Wizz Air states that it is “strongly committed to reducing climate change” and supports the Paris Agreement which aims to limit global temperature increases to below 1.5°C.

The airline said it was “proud to have the lowest CO2 emissions in Europe” and aims to reduce its output by 25 per cent by the end of the decade.

Launching the carbon offsetting scheme last year, Wizz Air’s chief corporate officer Marion Geoffroy said the group was working towards becoming the “greenest airline of choice”.

In August, Wizz Air said it hoped to expand services and planned to hire 4,600 new pilots by the end of the decade.

World Routes, held in Milan this week, brought together decision-makers from airlines, airports and tourism authorities across the world to discuss ways to help the industry recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than 125 airlines including easyJet, Jet2, Emirates, Etihad Airways and American Airlines attended.

Updated: November 22, 2021, 9:11 AM