Etihad Airways has created a mangrove tree adoption scheme to encourage passengers feel less guilty about flying. Jenny Southan reports

Etihad Airways and the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi have together launched the Etihad Mangrove Forest initiative to provide “guests, corporate accounts and partners” the ability to adopt mangrove trees in Abu Dhabi to offset their carbon footprint.

But is it greenwashing?

Etihad is charging people US$5 to adopt a mangrove tree as away of investing in carbon removal. But these trees are already protected and already exist. So where is that money going and why do people need to pay it in the first place?

Apparently, there is a dedicated app where “investors” can “chat with their chatbot enabled tree”, while also being able to track every tree with satellite maps and access data, including CO2 consumption metrics, which can be tracked and offset against emissions.

Etihad Guest Members will be able to invest in the Etihad Mangrove Forest using Etihad Guest Miles in the Reward Shop from March. People will also be able to “gift” a tree to their loved ones and give them names.

Tony Douglas, group chief executive officer for Etihad Aviation Group, says: “Over the last two years Etihad has developed an extensive programme to tackle the challenge of aviation sustainability.

“We have focused on innovation and technology to develop carbon reducing processes and operational efficiencies that will benefit the industry, as well as building partnerships and collaborations to lead a united industry response to decarbonisation through the most comprehensive, cross organisational sustainability aviation initiative ever undertaken.

“The Etihad Mangrove Forest is the next step in our sustainability journey to ensure our responsibility to remove carbon from the atmosphere is progressing. The intent is to create forests on all continents we fly to, and to provide our guests with an engaging opportunity to take part in the solution.

“We know offsetting unavoidable emissions alone isn’t going to solve the climate crisis, we need to actually remove carbon from the atmosphere. Even with the best-case scenario global decarbonisation drive, we will still need to remove 6-10 Gt of CO2 per year by 2050 to stay below 1.5 °C global warming. The Etihad Mangrove Forest will contribute to this task.”

Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, secretary general of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, says: “Abu Dhabi Mangrove Programme aims to establish the emirate as a global hub for research and innovation in support of the conservation of mangroves. Through the programme we aim to streamline all mangrove efforts launched from Abu Dhabi under one umbrella, to assist in achieving the government goals to reach net-zero by 2050.

Part of the Abu Dhabi Mangrove Programme, Etihad Mangrove Forest will also be launching a planting programme to “establish carbon absorbing forests in every country the airline flies to in a bid to develop new carbon sinks and natural resources to remove carbon from the atmosphere”.

Globetrender is awaiting more information on this.

Why mangroves?

According to a press release from Etihad, mangroves worldwide collectively store 6.4 billion tonnes of carbon, almost four times more than other terrestrial forests.

At a rate of just more than 12kg a year, the average mangrove tree captures over 300kgs of CO2 in its 25-year lifetime.

Globetrender notes that the average return flight from London to New York generates 986kg of CO2 per passenger.

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