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‘Greenwashing’: Lufthansa defends Green Fares as campaigners slam offsetting plans

Planes of German carrier Lufthansa at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany
Planes of German carrier Lufthansa at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany Copyright Reuters
Copyright Reuters
By Charlotte Elton with Reuters
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Campaigners say that the only way to reduce the environmental impact of flying is ‘not to take the flight in the first place.’

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Lufthansa will begin offering more expensive ‘green’ fares this week but campaigners have slammed the initiative as “grossly misleading.”

The German carrier’s new tickets, announced on Monday, will include the cost of offsetting flight-related carbon emissions.

The additional cost of each Green Fare will finance climate protection projects and sustainable aviation fuels, the airline has claimed.

While the fares may help passengers to manage their less ‘flight shame’ environmental campaigners have questioned the sustainability of the initiative.

“Schemes like this lull passengers into a false sense of security, leading them to believe their emissions have been dealt with,” says Anna Hughes, director of campaign organisation Flight Free UK.

“But the bottom line is that none of these things [carbon offsetting and sustainable aviation fuels] will reduce the environmental impact of flying. The only thing that will do that is not to take the flight in the first place.”

What are Lufthansa’s new Green Fares?

The new Green Fares can be booked for flights in Europe and North Africa.

The airline promises “climate-friendly flying” by offsetting the flight. They say that 80 per cent of the flight’s emissions will be offset through the financing of climate protection projects, while 20 per cent will fund Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF).

The fare will initially be offered on more than 730,000 flights per year for all airlines in the Lufthansa Group.

Lufthansa Executive Board member Harry Hohmeister said it was impossible to say in general how much more expensive the tickets would be, but that they would be "noticeably" more.

How environmentally-friendly are Lufthansa’s Green Fares?

The carrier is pinning its sustainability plans on Sustainable Aviation Fuels and ‘climate protection projects’.

SAFs still produce carbon emissions when burnt. However the International Air Transport Association (IATI) estimates that they curb emissions by roughly 80 per cent over the course of the “fuel life-cycle.”

This is because they are made from waste products, where the carbon has already been emitted, or from plants that absorb carbon dioxide while they grow.

Canva
Carbon offsetting schemes often involve planting trees.Canva

But they can have hidden detrimental impacts, says Hughes.

“‘Sustainable fuel sources include biofuel, which is a leading driver of deforestation, so it’s detrimental to biodiversity and leads to a net increase on overall emissions,” she says.

“Other sources include reclaiming waste from landfill, but the emissions from black bag waste are no lower than the emissions from burning ordinary jet fuel.

What ‘climate protection projects’ entails is more ambiguous. Such initiatives often involve planting trees.

Reforestation is vital to protecting the planet, but trees take years to absorb the carbon emitted by a single flight.

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Offsetting is another get-out-of-jail-free tactic, but in reality, it’s just kicking the can down the road,” Hughes warns.

Carbon offset projects have also been linked to the evictions of Indigenous people.

Lufthansa insists it will only invest in “high-quality” schemes.

"The selected climate protection projects are audited according to the highest international standards (Gold Standard and Plan Vivo)," a spokesperson said.

They also denied the accusation that their sustainable aviation fuels contributed to deforestation.

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"The Sustainable Aviation Fuel currently used by the Lufthansa Group is produced in the HEFA process (Hydroprocessed Esters & Fatty Acids) from biogenic residual materials such as used cooking oils," the spokesperson insisted.

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