FedEx unveils $2 billion plan to become carbon neutral by 2040

A FedEx cargo plane rolls to its parking position at the airport in Munich, Germany, 24 August 2020. [EPA-EFE/PHILIPP GUELLAND]

International delivery company FedEx has announced it will invest $2 billion (€1.66bn) to make its global operations carbon neutral by 2040, a task that will involve cutting the emissions of the company’s 70 aircraft and more than 30,000 vehicles operating in Europe.

The US-based business is partnering with Yale university as part of its sustainability drive, offering the Ivy League college $100 million (€83m) to help establish the ‘Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture’.

The centre will focus on designing and improving techniques to offset greenhouse gas emissions produced by jetliners – of particular importance to the company given FedEx has the world’s largest cargo airline fleet.

“As a global company with more than 200,000 motorised vehicles, 680 aircraft, and more than 5,000 operating facilities, transforming the carbon neutral global operations is a significant endeavour, with far reaching impacts for the planet,” said Frederick W. Smith, FedEx CEO.

“We have a responsibility to take bold action in addressing climate challenges,” he added.

Alternative fuels will play a role in cutting the company’s air emissions, with FedEx saying it intends to shift to e-fuels and hydrogen over kerosene. The company will also look to renew its fleet with more efficient aircraft.

FedEx, which has an annual revenue of $75 billion (€62.8bn) and almost 600,000 employees, will direct its investment towards three areas – vehicle electrification, sustainable energy, and carbon sequestration.

Carbon sequestration

“Addressing climate change is a complex challenge that demands urgent action, and natural carbon capture strategies will be one key part of that action,” said Dr. Ingrid C. Burke of the Yale School of the Environment.

The Yale team will focus on ramping up carbon sequestration – a process by which carbon is captured from the atmosphere and stored – including developing models to enhance synthetic carbon capture.

“Consider the leaf: it’s the natural system that’s optimised through evolution to capture light and carbon dioxide. The question here is whether, inspired by nature, we cannot only engineer more efficient photosynthesis in plants, but also design synthetic structures to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide and convert solar energy into fuel,” said Dr Burke.

Other techniques under consideration include the injection of carbon dioxide into rock to create ‘carbonate rock’, a storage technique capable of housing carbon for thousands of years.

Commission under fire for including 'carbon sinks' into EU climate goals

The European Commission on Thursday (17 September) defended its plan to bring carbon removals from agriculture, land use and forestry into the EU’s updated climate target for 2030, saying this was in line with UNFCCC standards.

Cutting emissions

From 2030, the company will solely purchase e-vehicles in Europe, while smaller distances in cities will be covered by bicycle couriers or on foot, according to Karen Reddington, FedEx’s regional president for Europe.

“We’re going to make sure that by 2040, 100% of our pickup and delivery vehicles are electric,” she added.

Asked about a price being placed on carbon emissions, the company said it welcomed it.

“We have long publicly supported carbon pricing. We think carbon pricing can provide an effective incentive to increase investment and innovative technologies to reduce [companies’] carbon footprint,” said Brie Carere, FedEx’s chief marketing and communications officer.

“Of course, we would like to work with legislators to make sure that as carbon pricing or carbon taxes are introduced, they reduce the administrative burden and ensure that corporations can remain competitive,” she added.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]


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