July 25, 2012 / 9:45 AM / 5 years ago

Qantas signs 5-year deal on carbon offsets

<p>A Santiago bound Qantas plane is seen between two construction cranes in central Sydney July 25, 2012.Daniel Munoz</p>

BEIJING, July 25 (Reuters Point Carbon) - Australian airline Qantas has signed a deal to buy up to 1.5 million offset credits over five years to meet part of its liabilities under Australia's carbon pricing scheme and offer voluntary offsets to passengers.

The offsets will be generated from managing Henbury Station, a 500,000 acre natural landscape in the Northern Territory, in which owners R.M. Williams hope to store up to 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

"How many credits we buy depends on take-up of our voluntary carbon offset program," Tom Woodward, a Qantas spokesman, told Reuters Point Carbon by email on Wednesday.

"We have typically purchased around 300,000 tonnes of carbon credits per year under the voluntary program and we'd expect to be able to source a majority of this from Henbury in future," he said.

Domestic air traffic in Australia was brought under the nation's carbon pricing scheme from July 1, and the Henbury project, which will seek eligibility under the Carbon Farming Initiative CFI.L, can earn offsets that can cover some of Qantas' liability.

But some of the credits will be offered to airline passengers seeking to voluntarily offset the carbon footprint of flights with Qantas and Jetstar.

Their voluntary offset programme has cut emissions by 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent since 2007, according to a Qantas statement.

According to the Australian government, Henbury Station can earn carbon credits by removing cattle from the area to encourage revegetation, which will in turn remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store the greenhouse in the soil and native plants.

Australia's Labor-led coalition has funded A$9 million of the project's A$13 million cost, provoking scorn from the opposition Liberal Party.

It argues that taxpayers' money has been wasted on a project that is largely unproven to make large scale emissions cuts. (Reporting by Stian Reklev)

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