"Empty promises and hollow targets" say environmentalists
British Airways has pledged to halve its CO2 emissions by 2050, a week after approval for Heathrow's third runway outraged environmentalists.
The controversial plans would see Heathrow become the biggest single source of C02 emissions in the country with BA by far its largest airline.
The green target, the most ambitious and radical according to BA, will see the airline's carbon output reduced from 16 million tonnes to eight million.
"Some people say that in economic times as desperately tough as these, we can afford to put climate change issues on one side. I could not disagree more," said Willie Walsh, BA's chief executive.
"Halving net CO2 by 2050 is an extremely challenging target. But it is one I am sure we can achieve."
Mr Walsh said progress would be made through cleaner aircraft, alternative fuels, more efficient flight routing and emission trading schemes (ETS).
"We are the only airline to have experience of emissions trading, and we have helped fund research into lower-carbon aviation fuels," he added.
But the announcement has met with cynicism from environmental activists.
"British Airways won't fool the public with empty promises and hollow targets like these," said a spokesman for Greenpeace.
"The aviation industry is the fastest growing contributor to climate change in the UK today, and the only way that technological advances can make a difference is if we put the brakes on unneeded projects like the third runway at Heathrow.
"This target is nothing more than an uncosted aspiration, and small improvements in engine efficiency won't change the fact that BA is looking to hugely expand its base at Heathrow in the face of the climate science."
Mr Walsh made the announcement from Hyderabad where a new route from Heathrow has just opened.
Mr Walsh also warned that economic recovery in the UK was at least two years away.
He said: "For us in the UK, the outlook is certainly no easier than anywhere else. Because of the high importance of the financial services sector, it is perhaps a bleaker outlook than in other countries.
"At the moment, I would expect things to continue getting worse rather than better.
"I cannot see the bottom of this crisis yet. There is some distance to go, and I would expect this very difficult environment to last for at least another 24 months."
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