During the United Nations Climate Summit held last month, leading industry association in the aviation sector pledged to take action to implement several measures with an ultimate goal to bring down the sectoral emissions in 2050 to 2005 levels.
A number of industry associations representing airports, airlines, and other related sectors signed an agreement to implement measures to improve flight operations, develop alternate fuels, and even develop a market-based mechanism to reduce international aviation emissions.
The agreement was signed between the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization, and the International Business Aviation Council.
Even with the most aggressive technology and operational improvements in the aviation sector by 2050, the sectoral emissions are set to increase by about four times the 2005 emissions. As per ICAO estimates, the international aviation emissions (pdf) could be anywhere between 2.3 and 4.5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2050, based on various scenarios of technology and operational improvements. In 2006, the sectoral emissions were 591 million tonnes of CO2e.
The European Union had proposed to include a large part of the international aviation sector into its emissions trading scheme from 2012 onwards. Non-EU countries led by India, China, and the United States came out with fierce opposition to the proposal with several misinformed officials calling it a “carbon tax” on flights.
The EU relented, and continued with the implementation of the emissions trading scheme within its own jurisdiction through the “stop the clock” decision in April 2013. EU’s initial move to include international flights into its emissions trading scheme is now largely seen as a strategic initiative to put pressure on the airlines and international aviation agencies to adopt measures to reduce emissions.
The ICAO now has until 2016 to agree to an international market-based mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and implement the same by 2020. Failing to achieve these milestone would mean that the EU will force its ETS on international flights originating or terminating within its jurisdiction. ICAO’s efforts towards achieving an international market-linked mechanism have so far been quite disappointing. Whether or not it is able to build consensus on such a mechanism by 2016 would also depend on the outcome of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris.
Image credit: Aleksandr Markin | CC BY-SA 2.0