British Airways has launched a new scheme, backed by the government, where its customers can volunteer to help to offset the carbon dioxide emissions from their flight by making a contribution to an environmental trust.

The money raised will be used by an organisation called Climate Care to invest in sustainable energy projects that tackle global warming by reducing carbon dioxide levels. Air travellers can choose to make a donation from today (September 12) via a link from the airline's website, ba.com, for the cost of the emissions created by their journey. For example, the donation on a return flight from London Heathrow to Madrid will cost £5 and a return flight from London Heathrow to Johannesburg will cost £13.30.

Dr Andrew Sentance, British Airways' chief economist and head of environmental affairs, said: "We are committed to addressing our impact on climate change and our own carbon emissions from aircraft are down by eight per cent since 2000. However, some customers are keen to go beyond this and totally offset the emissions created by their flights. To help them, we are delighted to offer this facility."

Climate Care's projects include a scheme in South Africa that has distributed 50,000 energy efficient lamps this year via school groups as part of an environmental awareness campaign. In India, Climate Care's support means schools are able to use stoves that run on renewable energy briquettes made from crop waste rather than liquid petroleum gas. Tom Morton, director of Climate Care, said: "British Airways has long been a leader in the aviation industry in terms of the environment and we are very pleased that it has taken the step of enabling its customers to offset their carbon dioxide emissions. At a time when some airlines are burying their heads in the sand over global warming, British Airways is tackling the issue full on with a range of measures - of which this is just one."

Elliot Morley MP, Government minister for climate change and environment, who has urged all travellers to consider offsetting their flights, said: "While offsets are not a substitute for international action on reducing emission levels, I welcome warmly this move from British Airways which will help its customers offset some of the environmental impacts of air travel and I urge strongly other airlines to follow this lead.

"People are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change and are keen to play an active role in tackling it. Large organisations have a responsibility to show them how they can do this.

"The government is committed to bringing aviation within the emissions trading scheme, which will provide carriers with a further incentive to reduce their carbon emissions, and is using its presidency of the European Union to take this work forward." Evaluating carbon offset initiatives for air travellers by the end of 2006 was one of the commitments made by the UK aviation industry as part of the Sustainable Aviation coalition which was launched in June this year. British Airways has improved its global fuel efficiency by 27 per cent since 1990. It is the only airline participating in the UK government's trial emissions trading scheme and its domestic flight and property carbon dioxide emissions are down 23 per cent compared to the scheme's 1998-2000 baseline. The airline believes that emissions trading is the best long term mechanism for limiting aviation carbon dioxide emissions and supports aviation's inclusion in the European Union emissions trading scheme from 2008. Customers can offset their carbon emissions via the booking confirmation form when they book British Airways flights at www.ba.com or at www.ba.com/offsetyouremissions