Airline Carbon Offset Comparison

The QAS audits carbon offset programs and provides this free and comprehensive comparison table to highlight key differences with a traffic light system. Only five airlines are QAS-Certified.

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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.

QAS certification

The QAS has been auditing airline carbon offset programs since 2012. Participating airlines are audited annually against the tightest set of rules worldwide, including at least 40 criteria such as emissions factors, calculation methodologies, project methodologies, registry retiral, radiative forcing index, Green Claims compliance, pricing and providing accurate information.

Airlines with their own carbon offset programs can apply directly to the QAS to have their offsets audited, approved and awarded the QAS Quality Mark, or alternatively IATA can both set up the carbon offset program and handle the QAS application as responsible provider.

To find out more, please contact us.

Benefits of QAS approval for passengers

  • One recognisable Quality Mark to make good carbon offsets easy to find
  • Better information on the websites you buy your flights and carbon offsets from
  • Reassurance that you are buying carbon offsets with the toughest quality control worldwide

Benefits for Airline Carbon Offset Programs

  • Protect reputation through compliance with the world’s most stringent standards, audited annually by a respected independent auditor
  • Stand out from other airline carbon offset programs
  • Improve passenger participation with a stronger message, reassurance on quality and independent verification of standards
  • Promote your program with the Carbon Neutral Quality Mark
Airline Carbon Offset Programs

Paul Steele, SVP and Corporate Secretary, IATA.

Supporting statement from IATA

There is simply no alternative to aviation when it comes to long distance travel. Aviation contributes around 2% of man-made global CO2 emissions. We take this challenge seriously and we have to improve our fuel efficiency by over 70% since we first started flying jets. We are one of the only global sectors to have a robust and ambitious plan in place to reduce emissions by 2050 to half of what they were in 2005. Airline carbon offset programs form a part of our overall strategy and is an immediate, direct and pragmatic means to encourage action to limit climate change s, at least in the short-term.

An integral part of any quality carbon offset program is independent certification to ensure that both the carbon calculation methodology and offsets are of the highest standard and quality. The IATA Carbon Offset Program and the airlines associated with it have been independently certified by the QAS, complying with the most comprehensive and stringent audit mechanism for offsetting. IATA and the airlines in the program are proud to carry the QAS logo as seal of approval and credibility.

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