Qantas claims to be the only airline group to commit to cap its future net emissions at 2020 levels.

The Australian carrier and its subsidiaries have also followed British Airways by committing to net zero emissions by 2050.

Qantas, Jetstar, QantasLink and Qantas Freight will offset all growth in emissions from domestic and international operations from 2020.

This includes offsetting all net emissions from the carrier’s ‘Project Sunshine’ plan to operate non-stop flights from the east coast of Australia to London and New York.

This will also extend to domestic flying, meaning that growth on key routes like Melbourne-Sydney will be carbon neutral.

Qantas pledged to work with industry, research institutions and governments to develop long-term solutions to “significantly reduce” greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry over the next three decades.

The plans include spending A$50 million over the next decade to help develop a sustainable aviation fuel industry.

Sustainable aviation fuel can reduce carbon emissions by 80% compared to traditional jet fuel, but is currently almost double the price, according to Qantas.

The group is working with aircraft and engine manufacturers on next-generation technology that will deliver a further “step-change” in emissions reduction but warned that innovations such as electric aircraft engines are still some time away.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said: “We recognise that airlines have a responsibility to cut emissions and combat climate change. We’ve already made some good progress, especially by investing in newer aircraft that have a much smaller carbon footprint.

“We want to do more, and faster. We’re effectively doubling our carbon offsetting programme from today and we’re capping our net emissions across Qantas and Jetstar from 2020 so that all new flying will be carbon neutral.

“Qantas offsets all of its own travel needs and so do many of our customers. By matching their efforts, we’re hoping it will encourage even more people to offset and the program will keep growing.

“These short-term actions will go towards a longer-term goal of being completely net carbon neutral by 2050. It’s ambitious, but achievable.”

He added: “Innovation is going to be key. We’re investing A$50 million to hopefully kick-start a sustainable aviation fuel industry in Australia. We know from our own trials that the technology works but we need to get to a scale of production where it’s a practical substitute.

“Concerns about emissions and climate change are real, but we can’t lose sight of the contribution that air travel makes to society and the economy. The industry has already come a long way in cutting its footprint and the solution from here isn’t to simply ‘fly less’ but to make it more sustainable.

“We’re doing this because it’s the responsible thing to do, but hopefully it will also encourage more people to choose Qantas and Jetstar because of the action we’re taking.”