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Carbon-Negative? Saudia Offsets More Carbon Than Generated By A Flight

The airline offset twice the amount of CO2 produced by one of its Dreamliners from Jeddah to Madrid in partnership with CarbonClick.

As decarbonizing technologies mature, carbon-negative is a term that is showing up more and more in the climate change discourse as the ultimate eco-friendly label. As the name would imply, it signifies that companies, activities, building, or, in the case of Bhutan, even countries remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than they generate. On May 12, Saudi Arabian flag carrier Saudia announced it had operated the world's longest 'net-positive' (yes, the varying terms can be somewhat confusing) flight, offsetting more CO2 emissions than it generated.

Sustainable Flight Challenge submission

The flight was Saudia's entry for the SkyTeam Sustainable Flight Challenge, which began on May 1 and is coming up on its last day tomorrow, May 14. Flight SV227 was operated by one of the airline's Boeing 787s. It took off from King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah (JED) at 10:50 and landed at Madrid Barajas International Airport (MAD) at 15:34 local time.

The airline's Chief Executive Officer, Captain Ibrahim Koshy, commented on his carrier's landmark challenge submission and how it relates to the overall environmental strategy of Saudia Arabia as it aims to become a major tourist destination before the end of the 2020s,

“The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 will see 100 million visits to Saudi Arabia by the end of the decade. A cornerstone of that vision is for the Kingdom to be a leader in sustainable and even regenerative tourism. As Saudi Arabia’s national flag carrier we have a key part to play in making that happen. As a result, operating the world’s longest carbon net-positive flight is just the start of an ambitious sustainability program that we will be implementing.”

Saudia B787-9
Saudia says it was the world's longest carbon-positive flight. Photo: Getty Images.

The airline has also developed an action plan to help minimize its overall carbon footprint. This includes measures such as initiating a Green Point Program, flight path optimization, organic food for in-flight catering, recyclable and reusable service materials, eco-friendly amenity kits, waste management, etc.

Partnering with CarbonClick for renewable energy projects

Saudia partnered with CarbonClick to offset the CO2 emissions from the flight by a factor of two for a total of 346 tonnes. Offsets are a controversial topic regarding decarbonization, particularly as it relates to aviation. Its critics say that through offset schemes, we are being tricked into thinking there is such a thing as guilt-free flying as far as the environment is concerned. Even airline executives whose carriers offer voluntary schemes have called it out as 'greenwashing'.

There have also been social justice issues, such as land grabbing, arising from the newfound sources of revenue in certain areas. However, it is one of the few tools available today, and the quality and impact of offsets have become both more efficient and better regulated over the past few years.

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CarbonClick will use the Saudia offsets to invest in clean energy projects, including wind power plants in India. Michelle Noordermeer, Chief Operating Officer at CarbonClick, commented on the collaboration,

“Aviation is a difficult sector to decarbonize. New, more sustainable technologies are emerging, but those advances can be easily outpaced by industry growth. SAUDIA is setting a huge example by showing what can be done now, carbon offsetting, and using quality carbon credits as a powerful way to remove carbon and neutralize the impacts of radiative forcing."

Do you participate in carbon offsetting when you fly? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts on this particular pathway on the road to net-zero.

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About The Author
Linnea Ahlgren (1111 Articles Published)

Lead Sustainability Journalist - With a Masters in International Relations, Linnea has combined her love for current affairs with her passion for travel to become a key member of the Simple Flying team. With eight years’ experience in publishing and citations in publications such as CNN, Linnea brings a deep understanding of politics and future aviation tech to her stories. Based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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