European planemaker Airbus has outlined the environmental impact of its products, joining a growing list of companies, as aviation aims to reshape itself after the coronavirus crisis.
Major companies are under increasing pressure from investors and climate change activists to report the emissions that result when customers use their products, known as “Scope 3”. Airbus claims to be the first planemaker to do so.
The company says it is driving aerospace toward zero-emission flying with plans for a commercial aircraft powered by hydrogen by 2035. But environmentalist groups say that flying itself needs to be curbed to have a meaningful impact on climate change.
Airbus estimated lifetime emissions for jets built in two drastically different years: 2019, which saw record deliveries thanks to an order boom, and 2020, whose pandemic sent aviation into crisis and forced Airbus to slash output by 40 percent.
For the 863 jets it delivered in 2019, Airbus estimated lifetime emissions of 740 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). That includes 130 million related to the production of fuel burned in flight. In 2020, it delivered 566 aircraft with estimated lifetime emissions of 440 million tons, including 80 million for fuel.
Carbon intensity data
Airbus also published carbon intensity data suggesting an “average efficiency” of 66.6 grams of CO2 per passenger-kilometer in 2019, improving to 63.5 grams in 2020. A senior Airbus official said the data included conservative assumptions for synthetic fuels, whose use is expected to grow.
Airbus also reported emissions from its factories, giving a glimpse of a multinational network linked by boats, trucks, barges and huge airlifters. Its own CO2 emissions decreased by about 20 percent last year amid the pandemic, and Airbus purchased 21 percent less water in Europe. It also produced 25 percent less waste and potentially damaging vapors.
Airbus aims to consume 20 percent less energy and emit 40 percent less CO2 from its more than 70 sites by 2030, compared with 2015.
Aviation produces 2.5 percent of human-induced CO2 emissions and 12 percent of CO2 from transport, the industry says. It has pledged to reduce net carbon emissions to 50 percent of 2005 levels by 2050.