Carbon emissions for all UK domestic flights are to be offset by British Airways from next year.

The move is part of a wider commitment by owner International Airlines Group to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Emissions from UK flights will be offset by IAG investing in carbon reduction projects, including renewable energy and reforestation programmes. BA operates up to 75 UK domestic flights a day.

The initiative is part of a plan to invest $400 million developing sustainable aviation fuel over the next 20 years.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh described the net-zero target as “ambitious”, but told The Times: “It is time for someone to take the lead.”

He was talking as he set out on one of BA’s first flights to Toronto on the airline’s new Airbus A350. The flight will use 43 tonnes of fuel, compared with the 70 tonnes burnt by Boeing 747s that use to operate on the route.

Walsh said: “A lot of activity that is normal and socially acceptable today may not be in the future. If we don’t do this, then issues about whether it is socially acceptable to fly definitely become a question.”

But he warned: “The idea that you can go back to a time when only the privileged get to experience travel is socially unacceptable.”

Bonuses for management, including senior executives, will be linked in future to reducing carbon emissions across the group, IAG said.

“We’re investing in new aircraft and innovative technology to reduce our carbon footprint,” Walsh said.

He added that the industry had to invest in carbon offset and to develop carbon trading, as, unlike other industries, there was no other solution to reducing its carbon footprint.

“We don’t see an alternative for a carbon-based fuel for some considerable time,” Walsh said.

“Aviation’s dependency on fossil fuels means that it’s essential that governments support its efforts to decarbonise by providing incentives to accelerate investment in new technologies. Global warming needs a global solution.”

BA chairman and chief executive Alex Cruz said: “British Airways is determined to play its part in reducing aviation’s CO2 emissions.

“To solve such a multi-faceted issue requires a multi-faceted response and this initiative further demonstrates our commitment to a sustainable future.

“It also follows our announcement to partner with renewable fuels company, Velocys, to build a facility which converts household and commercial waste into renewable sustainable jet fuel to power our fleet.”