SPONSORED CONTENT: By Mitch Jackson, Vice President, Environment Affairs & Chief Sustainability Officer FedEx Corporation
There is an absolute urgency to address climate change and greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Over the last century, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), especially carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use, deforestation, and agriculture, have risen precipitously, leading to an increase in global temperatures. In 2020, the Northern Hemisphere saw its hottest year on record. And globally, the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 2005, with seven happening since 2014. To avoid potentially irreversible consequences to the planet, both intervention and innovation are necessary.
In March, FedEx set a goal to take its operations carbon neutral by 2040. As a global company with more than 200,000 motorized vehicles, 680 aircraft and 5,000+ operating facilities, transforming to carbon neutral operations is a significant endeavor with far-reaching impacts for our company and the environment. While we are focusing on multiple elements of our operations to reach this goal, such as vehicle electrification of the entire FedEx parcel pickup and delivery fleet, improving aviation operational efficiency and modernization, and seeking sustainable aviation fuels, achieving true sustainability in aviation, specifically, continues to be an intractable problem.
Across cultures and regions, the world relies on airplanes to travel and trade, and to create a more connected, prosperous world. These benefits present a unique set of challenges to our atmosphere, our environment, and our livelihood; however, they are challenges that we must address through improved sustainability and efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Yet with few viable alternatives on the horizon to replace carbon-based jet fuels, in addition to the unscalable costs and availability of new sustainable fuels and suitable aircraft designs to use them, the opportunities for carbon-neutral aviation are scarce in the near-term.
As we work toward eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, we recognize the necessity of employing diverse strategies to help reduce the negative effects of past and current emissions on the Earth’s climate. This spring, FedEx committed $100 million to help establish the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture. This interdisciplinary research Center will focus on developing scalable solutions to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide to help improve the health of the planet.
We believe that developing a portfolio of natural solutions for carbon sequestration is an ambitious approach to achieving carbon neutrality in aviation. Moreover, it can have an immense effect on society’s ability to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Boosting the amount of carbon that can be stored in Earth’s ecosystems – through reforestation of formerly forested lands, more efficient photosynthesis, and the integration of regenerative agriculture practices – represents relatively well-known processes that could occur at scale. These approaches could also offer a number of co-benefits, such as improved water quality, increased crop production and biodiversity. Such solutions, however, must get into the hands of people who can apply them most effectively. For this reason, outreach efforts, such as the training in tropical forest restoration offered by Yale’s Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative, are essential for ensuring these natural carbon capture solutions achieve their full potential.
Another area of carbon capture to be explored, one which has the advantage of being effectively permanent, is geological. Through mineral weathering, carbon dioxide dissolved in water reacts with minerals on the Earth’s surface to produce carbonate minerals, which make up rocks such as limestone and marble. Weatherable rocks cover more than two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, including the sea floor, and their carbonate products do not decay as plants do; thus, they represent a nearly inexhaustible, long-lasting sink for carbon if we can understand how to tap them efficiently.
Finally, models of natural processes can be engineered to enhance carbon reuse and storage in fuels, plastics, and building materials. Businesses, industries, and governments around the world all stand to benefit from scientific discoveries that can accelerate the adoption of carbon capture strategies that use nature as a model. And this can unlock unlimited possibilities in battling the war against climate change.
The team at Yale is aiming to identify biological, geological, and industrial solutions in the shorter and longer term. The funding provided by FedEx supports a robust research program that enables the Center for Natural Carbon Capture to innovate and solve within these areas for decades to come. It is our collective hope that these strategies for reducing GHG concentrations will reach far beyond Yale’s campus and our own fleet.
At FedEx, we believe it is essential that we continue to focus on a strategy to Reduce, Replace and Revolutionize, focusing on operations and making investments in research now so we can help deliver transformative solutions well into the future. We have an opportunity to revolutionize carbon capture using novel science to design optimal strategies and by uncovering new innovations that haven’t yet been explored. And that’s exactly what our engagement with leading researchers at Yale aims to achieve.
Mitch Jackson, Vice President, Environment Affairs & Chief Sustainability Officer, FedEx Corporation
As Vice President, Environmental Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer for FedEx Corporation, Mitch Jackson leads the strategic direction and provides vision for all aspects of the company’s sustainability initiatives and environmental innovations and technologies. Jackson helped envision and pioneer the implementation of hybrid and electric vehicles in the FedEx fleet, and ultimately in commercial vehicles. He was also instrumental in successfully securing first-ever national fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas requirements for commercial vehicles. He championed the first FedEx solar energy system in 2005, with it being California’s then largest corporate rooftop array. Jackson was also the key driver for the establishment of the first FedEx sustainability goals and has responsibility for current and future goals.
In 2012 the British newspaper The Guardian named Jackson as one of the top 15 sustainable business executives on Twitter. For four consecutive years, he earned the title as one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders by Trust Across America. In 2014 Green Fleet Magazine named Jackson a Sustainability All Star for his contributions to environmental sustainability. And, in 2009, Ethisphere Institute named Jackson as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics. Jackson is currently a member of the Keystone Policy Center’s Board of Trustees, executive committee and Energy Board, and a board member of Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. He has also served as environmental juror for the Heinz Awards, and was a long-serving member of the American Trucking Associations Board of Directors.