Air transport is essential to New Zealand's trade, investment and tourism industries. It also plays a critical role in connecting our people to the world, and the world to us. These benefits are, however, counterweighed by the aviation industry's significant climate impact. Air transport as a global sector contributes 2% to 4% of global emissions.
This is why we want to focus on leading and advocating for action on decarbonisation. We have a goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and remain committed to meeting the International Air Transport Association's (IATA's) targets. This includes carbon neutral growth of international flights from 2020, achieved through the Carbon Offsetting Programme and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)
SAF is fuel made from raw materials other than crude oil, such as waste oils, landfill waste, or forestry or agricultural residues. It has the potential to dramatically reduce carbon emissions by up to 85 percent compared with traditional jet fuel.
The chemical and physical characteristics of SAF are almost identical to those of traditional jet fuel. That means it can be used in our current fleet without modification, and is proven and safe – since 2016, more than 300,000 flights around the world have flown using SAF.
Why SAF is critical to decarbonise air travel
Our aspiration is that new, low carbon technologies like electric, hybrid or hydrogen aircraft will dramatically reduce the emissions of shorter domestic and regional flights from 2030. However, for long haul travel, the key solution to significantly reducing emissions is Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
The pathway to SAF
Currently, there is no SAF available in New Zealand. Due to the high initial cost of establishing supply and the ongoing cost of production, SAF commands a price premium compared to traditional jet fuel.
However, with the right policy and investment settings, SAF production could be made viable, and the commercial gap with fossil fuels could be narrowed. Analysis carried out by the SAF Consortium (Air New Zealand, Z Energy, Scion, LanzaTech and LanzaJet) shows there is a pathway to stand up a domestic SAF industry for New Zealand to meet 50 percent of New Zealand's aviation fuel demand by 2050, supported by a domestic feedstock (raw materials) supply chain. This could also be supplemented by SAF imported from offshore. Read more about the pathway to SAF supply in New Zealand.
Our progress to date:
- First commercial SAF flight - Air New Zealand has been at the forefront of researching this technology for some time. We flew the world's first commercial aviation test flight powered by SAF in 2008.
SAF Consortium - More recently Air New Zealand has been part of a SAF Consortium which has established that there is a pathway for standing up a SAF industry in New Zealand, and that it would have broad-reaching benefits.
SAF white paper - In 2021 Air New Zealand shared a SAF white paper with the New Zealand Government. The paper provides information on the vital and immediate policy steps needed to realise absolute emissions reductions from SAF in New Zealand, and outlines the broader co-benefits for our country.
Government engagement - View our submissions in response to Government consultations.
Zero emissions aircraft
Understanding zero emissions aircraft
Zero emissions aircraft represent the new age of innovation for the aviation industry. The last step change in aviation technology was the development of the jet airliner in the 1960s, now zero emissions aircraft are a promising solution to reduce aviation carbon emissions.
Zero emissions aircraft are powered electrically by either batteries, hydrogen, or hydrogen combusted directly. Both hydrogen and battery technologies are still under development by aircraft manufacturers and innovators. However, we expect to see this technology mature and be a possibility for Air New Zealand from 2030 on shorter domestic and regional flights.
Why zero emissions aircraft are critical to decarbonise air travel
While we believe SAF is currently the best solution to decarbonise our long haul flights, it still produces a small residual amount of carbon emissions. Zero emissions aircraft solve for this by deploying the latest advances in battery or hydrogen technology. We have an aspiration that from 2030 these types of aircraft could begin operating on short range domestic routes.
Our progress to date:
- Partnership with ATR
In 2018, ATR and Air New Zealand signed an agreement to explore the potential for hybrid propulsion to be used in regional aircraft. Under the agreement, both Air New Zealand and ATR are working on the development of hybrid technology and how it might be supported in operations as they come to market in future years.
Partnership with Wisk Aero
Air New Zealand and Wisk signed an agreement in 2018 to work collaboratively on bringing the world's first autonomous electric air taxi service to market in New Zealand. The agreement signalled the intention to form a long-term relationship to make autonomous, electric air travel a reality for all New Zealanders.
Wisk is leading the way in redefining personal mobility to make it easier for all of us to get around. Wisk's innovative technology and commitment to New Zealand make them an ideal partner for advancing the future of travel in New Zealand.
Operational carbon efficiency
In 2021 our carbon footprint (greenhouse gas emissions) decreased by 58%, primarily due to the reduction in air travel caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and New Zealand's elimination strategy.
In 2016, we engaged an independent IATA Operational Efficiency team to conduct an on-site review of our operations, benchmarking our performance against carbon management international best practice. The average airline carbon reduction measures identified by IATA are 5%. The savings identified for Air New Zealand were much less at 1.46% (approximately 37,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per annum), which indicates that we are well on the way towards world leading fuel efficiency improvements.
We launched a Carbon Reduction Programme in 2016, that enables us to realise further carbon savings, such as aircraft switching auxiliary power units off and connecting to electricity while at the gate. Recognising significant fuel savings can be made through route optimisation and tailored arrivals and departures, we continue to engage with external stakeholders including the Civil Aviation Authority and Airways New Zealand as part of our Carbon Reduction Programme to help drive industry wide initiatives. Senior members of Air New Zealand and Airways New Zealand oversee the programme to ensure initiatives are on track.
To meet our net zero 2050 ambition we will need to offset a portion of our future carbon emissions. Our priority is to reduce gross emissions as much as technology will allow, before utilising offsetting as a last resort.
In the meantime, we voluntarily offset the carbon emissions associated with our staff travelling for work on the Air New Zealand network. We also offer the ability for our customers to offset carbon emissions generated by their Air New Zealand flights under our FlyNeutral carbon offset programme.
FlyNeutral operates separately from the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS). Funds received from customers for offsetting under the FlyNeutral programme do not go towards our compliance costs associated with the NZ ETS, which we manage at our own cost. All funds go towards the purchase of additional and permanent certified carbon credits to offset a customer's flight related carbon emissions, and a donation to the Native Forest Restoration Trust to accelerate biodiversity in New Zealand. Join us and offset your Air New Zealand flights with FlyNeutral.