By Elan Head

An award-winning journalist, Elan is also a commercial helicopter pilot and an FAA Gold Seal flight instructor with helicopter and instrument ratings. Follow her on Twitter @elanhead

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Joby’s new carbon credit scheme would incentivize electric flight

Joby Aviation is partnering with JetBlue Airways and the fixed-base operator (FBO) Signature Flight Support to pursue the creation of carbon credits for commercial flights of electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Joby NASA
Joby and other developers of eVTOL aircraft could benefit by being included in the carbon markets being established for aviation. Joby Photo

According to Joby, credits would be generated based on how much those flights reduced emissions when compared to equivalent flights powered by conventional jet fuel. That would allow companies like Joby — which is developing a five-seat eVTOL air taxi that it plans to operate in an aerial ridesharing service starting in 2024 — to sell credits based on the lower emissions of its operations versus helicopter flights, for example.

Airlines like JetBlue could then purchase these credits to offset their own emissions, while FBOs like Signature could offer them to their business aviation customers. The goal, the partners claim, is to incentivize the commercialization of clean propulsion systems that could ultimately reduce emissions in the aviation industry more broadly.

Sara Bogdan, head of sustainability and environmental social governance at JetBlue, explained: “This partnership allows JetBlue to not only continue to fulfill our domestic carbon neutrality commitment, but also evolve the type of offsets we purchase and help support the development of electric and hydrogen aviation — critical levers for meeting the U.S. aviation industry’s net-zero goals.”

Voluntary carbon offset credits are a controversial approach to reducing global emissions. As a recent Quartz article pointed out, the lack of an official international standard for carbon offset accounting has opened the door to programs that fail to offset as much as they claim, permitting offset purchasers, “intentionally or not, to greenwash their image without actually addressing the climate crisis.”

Because JetBlue is an investor in Joby and Signature is one of its infrastructure partners, both companies also stand to benefit from directing more of their offset spend toward Joby, rather than unrelated projects. JetBlue, which last year became the first U.S. airline to achieve carbon neutrality for all of its domestic flights, currently supports offset programs related to landfill gas capture, solar and wind farm development, and forestry conservation, among others.

Joby emphasized, however, that it does not intend for this effort to be exclusive to Joby and its business partners. “We invite additional partners to join us and hope these agreements will be the first of many that link today’s air travel to the clean future of flight,” Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt stated in a press release.

Joby, JetBlue, and Signature said they will work together “to define the framework for the creation, validation, and eventual use of these new credits on aviation carbon markets, including identifying a third party to oversee and validate transactions.” They expect to confirm further details of that framework later this year.

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