Read: Are aviation’s sustainability goals ambitious enough?
Recently, our Flightpath host, Joel Makower, sat down with Chris Webb, Head of Carbon Markets at leading environmental group, The Nature Conservancy, to talk about the help at hand for the airline industry from nature. The final post of this three-part series provides an in-depth look at Joel and Chris’ conversation about the future of the carbon market and whether or not the aviation industry is ambitious enough in its sustainability goals. This transcript has been reordered and lightly edited for clarity.
JOEL MAKOWER: Where is all of this going? You mentioned that offsets have changed, and standards have emerged over the past couple of decades. Looking out another decade or so, what will we see happening with offsets that we’re not seeing yet?
CHRIS WEBB: We’ve seen huge growth in the voluntary carbon market and in carbon offsets writ large around the world in recent times. And I think that will continue in the future. I think there are a couple of trends that are worth picking out here. One is, we do continue to see nature and nature-based offsets getting more and more important within the offsetting world and I think that will continue. The other is that I think companies will start to see greater expectations around the role that offsetting plays in raising their ambition and that they will be held to an even higher bar in the near future than perhaps they were in previous years.
JOEL MAKOWER: Let’s talk about supply and demand. Are there more offsets than we have demand for or is the demand starting to outstrip supply?
CHRIS WEBB: Historically, the carbon market has unfortunately been a story of too much supply. The demand has never appeared in the way that we all thought. However, that dynamic is changing very rapidly today. We are seeing huge commitments from companies on tackling climate change and increasing offsetting is an important part of how they will deliver that in the near-term. And so, we’re really starting to see demand rise.
JOEL MAKOWER: What’s needed to meet that demand?
CHRIS WEBB: We’re starting to see a huge interest on the ground from governments, from companies, and from civil society organizations like ourselves in thinking about how we unlock carbon offsetting, particularly in nature, at a very different scale than we have historically. It’s going to require us to all work together in new ways on the ground that we haven’t previously and we’re going to need to bring some new skills into that space if we’re going to unlock a different scale.
JOEL MAKOWER: Why has the market uptake of offsets been limited today? What’s stopping it from being much more robust?
CHRIS WEBB: I think fundamentally, it’s been a very confusing story for consumers to engage with. And in the early days, there were mixed stories about the efficacy of carbon offsets, which haven’t helped the perception today – but I think the reality is very different to that perception. I think one of the things that we are seeing is that that demand is growing very rapidly. So, I think that the industry is getting better at communicating the story of coalescing around standards and methodologies that we have confidence in, and that confidence is being projected to businesses and policymakers in a much more consistent way so that they are prepared to take bolder action and use offsets as a tool to help with that bolder action, perhaps in a way that they weren’t in previous years.
JOEL MAKOWER: There’s been a nascent but growing movement looking at carbon removal. Some people call it, “drawdown.” What are the implications of that for the aviation industry? Is that something where there’s an opportunity to actually drawdown more carbon than aviation is emitting?
CHRIS WEBB: I’d say two things about carbon removal. The first is a framing piece. If we think about where the world the needs to be at in 2050, yes, most of the economy will be decarbonized. But even in all the scientific literature, there’s a recognition that there will be some element of unavoidable emissions. So, to get to net-zero by 2050, there is a role for removals in one form or another. Now, it may come as no surprise, but The Nature Conservancy strongly believes that in nature, we have, what is today, the only proven, at-scale, globally relevant, cost-effective removal technology at our disposal – nature.
JOEL MAKOWER: The aviation industry has pledged to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2050. Most other sectors are aiming to be net-zero carbon by mid-century. That’s obviously a much bolder goal. Do you think that the aviation industries’ goal is sufficient?
CHRIS WEBB: The aviation sector has certainly taken some big strides in recent years to think about its role in tackling climate change. But I think we would like to see those as the first steps and that there are further steps the sector can take, including ensuring that it’s fully aligned with those targets in the Paris Agreement – the net-zero carbon by 2050.
Continue following Flightpath for more insights from top experts about charting a route to sustainable aviation.
There is immense pressure on airlines to take immediate and extensive action to reduce and offset emissions. Joel Makower and Chris Webb discuss the mounting challenges airline executives are facing, and how they can demonstrate their actions and commitments to consumers.
Looking to the future of sustainable aviation, Joel Makower and Chris Webb discuss where the industry is headed, and how airlines can unlock consumer demand, stay on top of emerging trends, and position themselves as leaders in the industry.
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