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Virgin Atlantic and British government’s ‘net zero’ flight disputed by climate campaigners

CLIMATE activists slammed Virgin Atlantic and the British government for greenwashing today, after both claimed the airline will be launching “the world’s first net-zero transatlantic flight.”

Scheduled for this coming Tuesday, the transatlantic flight will be 100 per cent powered by so-called sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

SAF is derived from biofuel crops or waste, with Britain largely dependent on used cooking oil from Asia.

According to OpenDemocracy, some sellers are suspected of selling off unused palm oil as waste in exchange for credits from the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation.

If companies grow virgin crops instead of selling waste, these plantations can lead to deforestation. 

The International Air Transport Association claims this “sustainable fuel” could reduce aviation emissions by 65 per cent. 

The premise of this is that SAF is made using CO2 taken from the atmosphere, rather than from deep underground, the latter emitting additional CO2 to the atmosphere when burned. Currently SAFs are mixed 50-50 with fossil fuels.

Former airline pilot Todd Smith, a Extinction Rebellion spokeman and Safe Landing co-founder, argued SAFs “rarely do what they say on the tin.”

He said: “Even this one-off greenwash-laden flight using 100 per cent SAF won’t be ‘net-zero’ as the government claims. Its emissions will be 70 to 80 per cent less. Not zero.”

“This Virgin flight will be powered by a fuel that has been produced via a process which is a technological dead-end: it can't be sustainably scaled beyond a few per cent of existing jet fuel use — certainly nowhere near enough to be used 100 per cent of the time. 

“SAF is not only a greenwasher’s dream, but a dangerous distraction from the meaningful change we need to make now to protect the long-term future of aviation, its workforce, and the planet.”

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