The long road to carbon neutrality by 2045
Our long-term target is to be carbon neutral by 2045, so that we can continue to benefit from the good that aviation brings to the society, while solving the issue of CO2 emissions flying creates.
We are currently preparing to submit our CO2 reduction targets for validation by the Science-based Targets Initiative. Science-based Targets Initiative drives ambitious climate action in the private sector by enabling organizations to set science-based emissions reduction targets that support the Paris Agreement. As we prepare for this, we have decided to let go of our previous interim target of halving net emissions by 2025 (from the 2019 baseline), as the measures to achieve this interim target included a substantial amount of offsetting as a CO2 reduction tool. SBTi requires airlines to decarbonise within their own operation, so we will focus our efforts on measures that reduce the direct CO2 emissions of our flight operations.
Achieving carbon neutrality in aviation is ambitious target that requires an extensive toolkit. The key tools reducing emissions include reducing the weight of aircraft, developing fuel-efficient flight methods, using sustainable fuels (SAF), and investments in new, fuel-efficient aircraft technology and alternative fuels.
We intend to submit our near-term CO2 intensity reduction targets for validation by SBTi during the first quarter of 2024. The exact timing and scope of the measures we will use will thus be determined during the next six months.
More sustainable aviation fuel
Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) play a huge part in bridging the gap before newer technologies, such as hydrogen flying, become available. Sustainable aviation fuel can reduce fossil CO2 emissions by up to 80% compared to fossil-based fuels. The current availability of SAF is a challenge, as the price level, which is 2–3 times that of fossil fuel.
We aim to increase the use of sustainable aviation fuel together with the oneworld alliance, which has set a common aspirational goal of achieving a 10 per cent level in SAF uptake by 2030. Our biofuel partner is Finland-based Neste, the world's largest producer of sustainable aviation fuels refined from waste. This year we purchased 750 tons of sustainable aviation fuel from Neste for use on flights departing from Helsinki Airport – this corresponds to 400 flights between Helsinki and Stockholm with 100% blend. This is our largest single batch of sustainable aviation fuel purchased to date. We have also made future SAF purchase agreements with Aemetis and Gevo starting later at the end of this decade.
Weight and fuel efficiency
Finnair invests in fuel efficiency, every day, with every single flight. This means fuel-efficient flight planning, reducing the operative weight of the aircraft, and operating each flight as fuel efficiently as possible. Our pilots are in a key role in this; they have a concrete impact on fuel burn and CO2 emissions during flights. Our flight planning and our ground operations also contribute to fuel efficiency in their everyday work.
Simple everyday routines, such as single engine taxiing to and from the runway, optimizing flight plans to ensure aircraft fly with exactly the right amount of fuel and using CDA (continuous descent approach) landings, are all used to reduce fuel consumption.
The weight of the aircraft has a direct impact on its fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions, and we continuously optimise the weight of our aircraft, by for example choosing lighter elements to the cabin (seats, dishes, carpets) and optimising the amount of potable water carried at flights. We have discontinued our in-flight travel retail sales on all flights within EU as of spring 2020 and counted with 2019 levels of flying, this will reduce on average 50-100 kg from each flight, resulting in a total decrease of 70 000 kg in fuel consumption per year; this translates to 220 000 kg of CO2.
Customers can play their part too, by packing light. If every Finnair customer would have packed two kilos less in their luggage in 2022, the fuel saving would have amounted to 20 flights from Helsinki to Tokyo.
Investing into new technology
Each new aircraft generation is more fuel efficient than the previous one, thanks to advanced engines and lighter materials. For example, the A350 aircraft is up to 25% more fuel efficient than its predecessors. Even though the pandemic has affected the timing of our narrowbody renewal, it’s still on our agenda.
On the fuel side, developments in sustainable aviation fuel production technologies and market are key to solve the availability and price issues related to sustainable aviation fuels.
Finnair is committed to an emission hierarchy that places a high priority on reducing and avoiding emissions rather than relying on compensation. We follow the guidelines set by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and focus our efforts on implementing measures to directly reduce CO2 emissions from our flight operations.
Finnair is part of the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme, which obliges airlines to buy allowances for their CO2 emissions. Starting 2026 all European airlines are obliged to purchase EU-ETS allowances covering all their intra-EU flight emissions. In 2023 Finnair spent around 4,5 million on carbon allowances for 2022 emissions. Finnair is also part of CORSIA, a global carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation. As part of CORSIA, airlines are jointly obliged to compensate for the increase in global aviation emissions, meaning global aviation growth will be carbon neutral. Finnair participates in this offsetting, regardless of whether our emissions increase or not if global emissions continue to rise.
Our customers also have the possibility to offset emissions of flying through our service that combines Sustainable Aviation Fuel and trusted climate projects.
Cutting back on plastic and waste
While our largest environmental impact comes from the CO2 emissions of our flight operations, we also work to reduce our environmental impact on other fronts, such as reducing the use of single use plastics and improving recycling.
We reduced the use of single use plastic by 50% in 2022. This means removing a total of 230 tonnes of plastic from our flights every year (with 2019 volumes). For example, replacing plastic cutlery with a more sustainable choice means 53 000 kgs less plastic on our flights. In 2022 we also replaced the plastic starter bowl with a cardboard option which resulted in a reduction of approximately 39 000 kg of plastic waste per year.
We set the target to reduce food waste in our catering operations by 50% in 2022, but reached this target already in 2020. Our new goal is to reduce food waste by 10% per prepared food portion by the end of 2025 compared to the level achieved in 2022. One way to do this is to offer more pre-order choice for our customers.