All about carbon offsetting

SAS aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 25 percent by 2025. By 2030, the aim is that correspondingly all SAS domestic flights within Scandinavia will be powered by biofuel. Carbon offsetting is just one of many environmental and sustainability initiatives within SAS, and comes into play after we’ve done everything we can to reduce our climate impact using current technology. This is how it is done!

How does voluntary carbon offsetting work? 

The principle of climate neutrality is based on the idea of a global climate balance: greenhouse gases have a global impact. It doesn’t matter where emissions arise and where they are reduced or avoided. As a result, emissions that can’t be eliminated today, can be offset in one location by taking additional climate protection measures, even if they arise elsewhere in the world. 

The process of voluntary carbon offsetting is based on what is known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which was developed under the Kyoto Protocol and has long been used within many areas of the economy to voluntarily compensate for carbon emissions. Projects that are eligible for carbon offsetting are certified according to internationally recognised standards and the emission savings that are achieved are confirmed by independent auditing institutes. Certified projects can issue a certificate as proof of each tonne of reduced emissions, which companies can then purchase and use to counterbalance their own carbon emissions. 

Does carbon offsetting make sense? Is it not just greenwashing?

Carbon offsetting should only be used for emissions that can’t be eliminated today. It shouldn’t substitute the work to constantly try to reduce emissions. SAS has ambitious targets and aim to reduce total carbon emissions 25% by 2025. By 2030, SAF/biofuel equivalent to all our domestic Scandinavian flights will be used.

The added environmental value of carbon offsetting comes through the voluntary financial support of certified climate protection projects which would not be feasible without this support. Only those projects that can prove their additionality within the framework set by the certification standards, are recognized and gain access to the market. This mechanism, which finds its origins in the Kyoto Protocol, has firmly established itself over the past 20 years and has proven to be a central component of voluntary, non-governmental climate protection. The process is hosted by the UN, supported by numerous non-governmental organizations, and is used by hundreds of companies around the world that are committed to climate change mitigation.

How can one ensure that the funds generated by carbon offsetting will benefit the project? 

The principle of voluntary carbon offsetting is to provide incentives to project developers to enable the implementation of emission reduction projects. Without these incentives, the projects would not be feasible and therefore not be implemented. This additionality is an important criterion of the certification process for emissions reduction projects and guarantees the added value of these projects in regard to climate protection. 

Projects can only generate revenues if and when they have passed the rigorous validation and verification phases. Developers of climate protection projects can only sell emissions reduction certificates once their project has been implemented and has demonstrably contributed to reducing GHG emissions. This concept is known as ‘results-based finance’ and ensures that the funds raised by companies and organizations are related to real and measurable emission reductions that have already been achieved.

What role do project standards play and what do they define?

As part of voluntary carbon offsetting, projects can only produce emission reduction certificates if they have been checked and validated in accordance with internationally recognised certification standards, such as the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) or the Gold Standard. The Gold Standard and the VCS are non-governmental organizations with their own certification guidelines, which are closely modelled on the mechanisms from the Kyoto Protocol and the quality guidelines from the CDM. 

The certification of the projects ensures that the emission reductions are real, measurable, permanent, additional, unique, transparent, and conservatively calculated as well as audited by independent third parties. The Gold Standard has particularly strict requirements when it comes to additionality, sustainable development and the involvement of the local population in the project locations. The certification therefore ensures that each carbon offset creates real added value to the environment.

How is it guaranteed that carbon credits are only used once?

Certificates that are used to offset emissions must be irrevocably cancelled in publicly accessible registers. This procedure effectively prevents any double counting of carbon reductions. The carbon offsetting services offered by our partner, First Climate, are regularly checked and certified by TÜV NORD.

Who is SAS working with to offset their emissions? 

Since 2020 SAS has decided to work with First Climate to voluntarily offset flight-related emissions. We carbon offset all SAS tickets for our EuroBonus members, Youth travel and our own staff tickets.

First Climate has more than 20 years of experience and over 500 customers across various industries, First Climate is one of the globally leading solution providers for climate protection. The company is active in both the compliance and voluntary offset markets and works with many well-known companies and institutions. First Climate also offers a broad and credible project portfolio and, with them, we are convinced that we have a competent and trustworthy partner at our side to achieve our climate protection goals.

Which projects are SAS supporting to compensate for the emissions? How do they help the environment? 

For the fiscal year 2020 the offset is in a hydroelectric power plant project in India as well as a wind power project in China. Both, the Kinnaur Hydropower Project and the Guohua Rong-cheng Wind Power Project are certified by the reputable and internationally recognized Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). This is a global standard for the validation and verification of voluntary carbon emission reductions. Based on total volume of emission reductions, VCS is the world’s leading standard for voluntary carbon offsets.

Under which standards are the projects registered? When were they last verified? 

Both the Kinnaur Hydropower project and the wind power project we support in China have been certified according to the internationally recognized Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). This is a global standard for the validation and verification of voluntary emission reductions. Emission reductions from projects that are validated and verified according to VCS must be real, measurable, permanent, additional, checked by independent third parties, unique, transparent and conservatively calculated. In terms of the emission savings of the projects it certifies, the VCS is the world's most important standard for the certification of voluntary emission reduction projects. The Kinnaur project in India was last verified according to VCS in May 2018 and the wind power project in China in December 2019.

About the Kinnaur Hydroelectric Power Project in Himachal Pradesh, India

This project, supported by SAS, involves the installation of a run-of-river hydropower station to produce renewable energy within the north-Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. 

The hydropower station will use the natural flow of the Satluj river to generate electricity with a total installed capacity of 1,000 MW. The electricity generated will be exported to the Northern Regional Grid. In the absence of the project, the electricity would have been generated by fossil-fuelled power plants. Thus, the project contributes to a cleaner energy supply in a region which is dominated by coal-fired plants.

About the Guohua Rongcheng Phase II Wind Farm Project

Located in Rongcheng City in Shangdong province, this project consists of a 33-turbine wind farm with a total installed capacity of 49.5MW. This wind farm will deliver 100,000MWh of clean electricity to the North China Power Grid every year. Based on annual per capita power consumption in China, this is enough to sustainably meet the power needs of over 25,000 people. This project contributes towards the diversification of China’s energy mix that is heavily domiated by fossil fuels and coal in particular.

Due to its location at the coast of the Yellow Sea, Shandong has a high potential for wind power generation. Strong and steady winds make the province one of the top spots for re-newable energy generation in the country.

How much CO2 will be offset by the projects?  

Every emission reduction certificate SAS buy, represents one tonne of CO2 that was avoided by the project activities and the associated displacement of electricity from fossil fuel generation. 

By supporting both of these projects, we offset the emissions caused by the combustion of aviation fuel in our planes. We carbon offset all SAS tickets for our EuroBonus members, Youth travel and our own staff tickets. Overall, we are currently using the purchase of emission reduction certificates to offset more than 40% of all passenger-related CO2 emissions caused by our aircraft by purchasing emissions reductions certificates.

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