Commercial jets delivered by Boeing Co in 2020 will contribute on average to emissions equivalent to 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each over their more than 20-year lifespans, data issued by the planemaker showed on Monday.
Boeing is the latest company to report so-called Scope 3 emissions that result when customers use their products, amid pressure from investors and climate activists for data on how companies are performing on curbing emissions.
Europe’s Airbus took similar steps in February.
Together, the world’s two largest planemakers last year delivered jets estimated to be responsible for total emissions equivalent to 600 million tonnes of CO2 over their lifetimes, a figure dampened by lower deliveries during the pandemic.
Boeing aims to “significantly reduce our environmental impact during every stage of a product’s life cycle,” Chief Executive Dave Calhoun said in a forward to the Chicago-based company’s first-ever sustainability report.
Calhoun reiterated that its jets would fly on 100% sustainable aviation fuels by 2030. Jet engines are currently certified to run on a blend up to 50% of the fuel.
In the report, Boeing said the commercial airplanes it delivered in 2020 would be responsible for emissions equivalent to 158 million tonnes of CO2, or MtCO2e, over their lifespan.
That consists of 136 MtCO2e of emissions directly linked to their operation by airlines, and 22 MtCO2e related to the production by energy companies of the fuel used in flight.
Boeing has said it delivered 157 airplanes in 2020, suggesting each airplane is set to generate emissions equivalent to 866,000 tonnes over its lifespan, or 1 million tonnes after including the extra emissions linked to fuel production.
High price tag
By contrast, Airbus in February said it had delivered 566 jets in 2020 with estimated lifetime emissions of 440 million tonnes, including 80 million for fuel production.
Those figures equate to lower emissions per airplane compared with Boeing’s data, or 636,000 tonnes MtCO2e on average per plane as a direct result of operations, and 777,000 tonnes MtCO2e after adding the related oil-industry emissions.
Experts said comparisons are blurred by different assumptions on the average length of a jet’s service. Boeing also dominates the market for freighters, which fly longer.
Airbus assumed an average 22-year lifespan for its jets. A Boeing spokesman said it assumed 22.8 years for single-aisle aircraft, 21.5 years for twin-aisles and 29.6 years for freighters. Based on delivery data by type, that suggests an average of 24.8 years, Reuters calculates.
Aerospace firms worldwide say they are improving technology and promoting alternative fuels to decarbonize aviation by 2050.
Environmentalist groups insist that flying itself needs to be curbed to have a meaningful impact on climate change.
“The data confirms that Boeing’s aircraft come with a high environmental price tag,” said Dan Rutherford, aviation director at the International Council on Clean Transportation, an environmental research group based in Washington.
Both Boeing and Airbus say their estimates do not include the impact of an expected increase in the use of sustainable aviation fuels, which would cut emissions further. The European Union this month issued mandatory goals for the new fuel.
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