It’s crunch time. To achieve net zero by 2050, we need to halve emissions by 2030. The 2015 Paris Agreement set forth this ambitous goal and – without any doubt – we’re intent on meeting expectations. Think we can make it? According to Nora Lovell Marchant, vice president of global sustainability at American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT), “Greenhouse gas emissions were higher last decade than any previous decade but the rate of growth between 2009 and 2019 was lower than the growth rate between 2000 and 2009. In essence, we’re making progress but we need to go faster.”

As part of our bold commitment to pursue lasting travel solutions, we’ve stepped up efforts to rally the public and private sectors toward actions that drive a low-carbon future. Measurable progress is dependant on the entire ecosystem. So, to get to where we want to be, we made it our global mission to educate the public, lobby the government, and foster multilateral collaboration.

Entering a world stage

Joining the World Economic Forum (WEF) late last year was clearly the right move for us. We’re humbled and honored to be the only travel management company (TMC) to have a seat at the table with over 160 private and public industry leaders. Like us, they’re committed to driving the development of sustainable travel by working across the aviation value chain. Accelerating the transition to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is one of the Forum’s focus areas where we can make an impact. By signing the WEF Clean Skies for Tomorrow ambition statement, we’re taking action to help the aviation sector achieve 10% SAF by 2030.

When there’s an opportunity to address the pressing need for SAF, we’re eager to get on board. That’s one of the reasons why we engaged with the UK Jet Zero Council, a partnership between the government and industry. The Council’s aim is to help overcome the economic and technical barriers that limit SAF production and enable a broad framework for zero-emission flights in the UK. To help advance those objectives, we became a member of the Council’s SAF Delivery Group’s Mandate and Commercialization subgroups.

According to Nicole Sautter, manager of global sustainability at Amex GBT, “SAF is the most viable option for reducing emissions in the short-to-medium term although it still represents only a tiny portion of the global fuel supply.”

We’re working hard to help solve for that. Through our collaboration with Shell Aviation, our clients have the opportunity to invest in SAF and meet their company’s overall environmental goals. Those who sign up benefit from measurement tools and consultants to guide and optimize their investment while gaining access to Avelia, one of the world’s first blockchain-powered digital SAF book-and-claim solutions for business travel.

Investment requires strategy

While continued investment is SAF is vital, the government also plays a vital role in scaling up production. That’s what compelled us to become the first TMC to contribute to the Biden Administration SAF Grand Challenge. It’s designed to increase the production of SAF to 3 billion gallons by 2030 and 35 billion gallons by 2050 in the United States through advocacy with the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative.

And as the only TMC to become part of the SAF Blender’s Tax Credit Coalition, we’re joining more than 50 aviation industry stakeholders committed to building a robust SAF industry and decarbonizing aviation. The Coalition played a key role in driving incentives to scale SAF and met with legislators to advocate for a SAF Blender’s tax credit.

Clean travel across all transportation types – not just aviation – is our goal. To that end, we contributed to the UK Parliament’s Fuelling the Future: Motive Power and Connectivity inquiry. It examines how the government’s fuel policy will affect connectivity, capacity, and sustainability across all transport modes, including motor vehicles, shipping, rail, and aviation by 2050.

Knowing the carbon impact is key

With the growing demand for more sustainable fuel options comes the increased need for more granular carbon dioxide (CO2) calculations. To lend our support, we became the International Air Transport Association’s launch partner for CO2 Connect. Now clients have reliable flight emissions data based on fuel burn information, load factors, and other granular details.

And by signing the Net Zero Carbon Events (NZCE) pledge – a joint commitment across the events industry – late last year, we have an opportunity to help build an NZCE industry framework that’s in line with the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change. That includes developing a common approach to reducing and measuring events’ greenhouse gas emissions.

Eloísa Urrutia, head of sustainability at Amex GBT Meetings & Events, added her thoughts on the pledge and its framework and metrics: “It’s vital that we all speak the same language when we want to implement sustainability targets into meetings and events.”

Since so many of our clients have emission-reduction goals to meet, we’ve developed scalable, sustainable solutions that help them decarbonize their meetings and events and align with the Paris Agreement. In fact, many of them have a roadmap in place to halve emissions by 2030 as a result of our support and guidance.

Reducing emissions is key to reaching net zero but when that’s not possible carbon compensation projects like reforestation offer an interim solution. According to Nicole, “Climate finance should be directed towards projects that are independently verified, supporting ecosystems and communities most affected by the adverse effects of climate change.”

Our partnership with climate tech provider CHOOOSE gives our clients the opportunity to select a carbon compensation project within an online platform that has a diverse portfolio of options – many at preferred pricing.

There’s much more to the story

From mobilizing the industry to reducing emissions in our global operations, we’ve been busy on all fronts to lead the decarbonization journey. Though we’re committed to doing it the right way, by following Science Based Targets (SBTi) criteria. SBTi is based on emission-reduction pathways that are consistent with the Paris Agreement. As part of that commitment, we submitted our emission-reduction targets and plan to present them for validation by the end of 2023.

Industry-wide collaborations like SBTi are merely some examples of how we’re powering environmental progress. To get a complete picture of our decarbonization initiatives, including greener solutions for our clients, click here.