Published on February 14th, 2016 | by Guest Contributor


23 Countries Sign Agreement To Cut Airline CO2 Emissions

February 14th, 2016 by  

Originally published on Sustainnovate:
By Henry Lindon

International Agreement To Cut Commercial Airline Carbon Emissions Signed By 23 Countries

The first-ever international agreement to slash commercial airline carbon emissions was recently signed by 23 different countries, including the US.

The new agreement entails a 4% reduction in the fuel consumption of: commercial aircraft built after 2028; new aircraft designs from 2020 onwards; and deliveries of current in-production aircraft designs from 2023 onwards.

The announcement of the new agreement — which aims to reduce aircraft carbon emissions by over 650 million tons between 2020 and 2040 — was made by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

As commercial aircraft account for a significant portion of total transportation sector carbon emissions — around 11% currently — the improvement of aircraft fuel efficiency could go a long way towards emissions reductions.

That said, commercial aircraft activity has been growing rapidly in recent times, as the “third world” has industrialized — so overall emissions may still rise, even with improved fuel efficiency.

“The goal of this process is ultimately to ensure that when the next generation of aircraft types enter service, there will be guaranteed reductions in international CO2 emissions,” stated ICAO Council President Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu. ”The projected doubling of global passengers and flights by 2030 must be managed responsibly and sustainably.”

Going on: ”The proposed global standard is especially stringent where it will have the greatest impact: for larger aircraft. Operations of aircraft weighing over 60 tonnes account for more than 90% of international aviation emissions. They also have access to the broadest range of emissions reduction technologies, which the standard recognizes.”

It’s a step in the right direction, in one of the sectors that will be hardest to decarbonize.

Image by Lenny DiFranza (some rights reserved)

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  • I like the green movement and the new cleaner technologies. However, I see no information, NONE, on this website, about reducing homeowners’ use of energy, for instance. I know the website name does not lend itself to this kind of subject, but it does not have the name “auto” in it, does it? I would like the website to include advances in making houses more efficient using passive, recycling, or reduction technologies. The idea of keeping the status quo on the consumption of energy by homeowner seems deliberate because asking homeowners (and those who care so much about the planet, their babies, people) to buy and choose a smaller home with no cathedral ceilings is much harder to sell. It is good, some people are green as long as their life is not disrupted. Not all people think this way, but I think this should be also presented, if not the overall message is a bit superficial. All of the oil and old car industries must convert, but individuals don’t have to. I understand this website is to promote new technologies, but there are new technologies in the building industry too. On the other hand, there are from time to time stories about public transportation, which I see as a way for individuals to reduce their personal impact on the use of energy and, thus, reducing GHG emission, indirectly. In other words, I know there are huge players who would like to sell to the public the newest gadget and the most efficient solar this and wind that, but, equally important, this website should promote the reduction of energy by conservation or by improving efficiencies, using different material or using different construction methods.

    • Otis11

      You might have a valid point on websites such as planetsave, treehugger, Inhabitat, greenbiz, or Intelligent Building Today… but this is cleantechnica. It’s about clean tech. They already cover tech that advances your eco-cred… but if it’s not new and it’s not technology, it has little business on this website, no matter how wonderful people might think it is…

    • Bob_Wallace

      I passed your comment on to Zach.

      I suspect there could be more, but “NONE” is not correct. There’s been a lot on light bulbs, smart thermostats, and heat pumps. Do a site search on ‘houses’ and ‘building efficiency’.

      If you see topics that you think should be covered then send them to Zach. Several of the articles you read here are built on information sent in by others.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Hope for the Hyperloop. We could retire at least 90% of our planes.

    • Truth hurts

      Since Mask is no longer behind the hyperloop and chinese show interest, it might work one day.

      • Bob_Wallace

        We may have a demonstration by the end of the year.

    • Frank

      Assume for a moment that trains could be made self driving. Do you think it would make sense to put little motors into the cars instead of having a big engine pull them all, and then you could have computer dispatched variable length trains running at potentially more frequent intervals? The idea being that you would get there faster by starting sooner.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I don’t know how to speed up train travel in the US. Long distance travel isn’t attractive at normal train speeds. I suspect that standard rail needs to be a system for moving freight. As we reduce oil and coal shipments we probably need to move more freight off highways and onto rail.

        • JamesWimberley

          Is the question serious? Technically, it’s easy: build dedicated high-speed passenger track. (The economics are quite another matter.) A little European high-speed rail track is dual use (the tunnel under the Pyrenees and the Montpellier-Nimes link), but the freight has to run much faster than typical US practice. The construction is more expensive; the track has to be flatter and the curves of wider radius than pure high-speed passenger trains require.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Probably didn’t give you enough context. I was talking about US rail which just isn’t very good with moving people. At least outside of the NE corridor.

      • JamesWimberley

        Existing high-speed trains don’t really have distinct locomotives and passenger cars. A typical trainset would be eight units, permanently linked, with a power car at each end. Operators often stick two trainsets together to make a longer train, with one driver. I assume the size of the basic unit is optimized; it would be technically simple to have shorter trainsets.

  • Martin

    I have thought about how to reduce emission for flying and came up with this:
    There are already small (single engine) E-planes., and one company is working on a commuter version. (source-cleantechnica)
    My proposal would be: help/assist planes into the air as in currently used system, steam catapult (military use) rope or tow assist (gliders) or have an electromagnetic system with wireless charging for a short distance while on take off and a very small FF generator for the climbing to cruising level, reductions of say up to 50 % ?
    At the same time have battery packs that are easy to interchange, for improvements in battery density and have the wings and upper level of the planes covered with PV paint (they are working on that).
    An input about my craziness??

    • JamesWimberley

      The brutal acceleration – 4 Gs for steam catapults – rule them out for passenger use. I suspect that the tow launch is also unworkable but have no evidence to offer. The pv cells and interchangeable battery packs look doable and are no doubt being researched by Airbus, the pioneers in commercial electric propulsion.

      Long-shot ideas include the revival of (helium) airships. The large surface area would make daytime pv propulsion more feasible. The problem is the low speed, slower than a modern train. But you can restore elegance and spaciousness to the experience of flying, à la Orient Express.

      • Martin

        Yes steam catapult is in a very short distance 200 feet/60 m or so, but runways are up to 10.000 m long, would that be enough to have 1/2 g only but still enough speed to get off the ground?
        But what if there is wireless charging on the ground fro taxing and take off?
        Or like Harry Johnson pointed out use self driving/pilot controlled tugs for taxing. Taxing- waste of FF and source of a lot of air pollution!

      • Freddy D

        Aw man, no catapults? where’s the fun?

      • Otis11

        Possible sling-shot to get up to speed for takeoff? (Like what aircraft carriers do)

        My guess is that would only cut a fraction of a percent off of the requirements though – acceleration isn’t the hard part, gaining altitude is where all the energy is…

        • Martin

          Yes acceleration may be not much, but for example a 50 ton rail car need the power of about 25 people to get it rolling, once it is rolling on level ground one person can keep it in motion.
          But as for taxing, most of the time it may be 10 min to say 25 but sometimes much longer, we all heard of people stuck on planes for hours.
          E-towing would take care of that.(pollution or lack off)

          • Otis11

            Yes, etowing would be good as the engine wastes a lot of fuel even if it doesn’t need much power…

    • Harry Johnson

      A lot of jet fuel is burned while the aircraft is still on the ground. A battery powered tug could be used to bring the plane all the way to the runway where it disconnects. Jets engines would have to be warmed up but not used for ground propulsion. The tug then goes along the side to the other end to pick up just landed planes towing them to the terminal. With self driving cars, these tugs could be self-driving on their own while pilots would steer the tugs remotely from the cockpit when hitched to the plane.
      Some airports plugin parked planes to power and AC chilled air ducts which also eliminates burning fuel.

    • Freddy D

      And good old fashioned high speed rail.

      • newnodm

        Too practical.

        • Martin

          Yes high speed rail is more efficient. So are normal rail systems, perhaps that is why they were ripped out in a lot of cities to make more space for cars.
          As for getting the airlines on board that part would be easy, just explain to them the money savings, for example when a plane sits on the tarmac for an hour.
          Electric tow- no fuel use!

  • JamesWimberley

    The best you can say about this is that aviation has finally recognised the problem. But the actual proposal is ridiculously inadequate. Did they read the Paris agreement? The goal is carbon neutrality, not a few per cent off current emissions. That means a massive switch to biofuels or synfuels and/or electric propulsion.

    • Philip W

      I was thinking the same thing. The agreement is a joke. That 4% production would probably happen even without the agreement just by technological advances.

    • Freddy D

      Well said. Furthermore, the rate of growth will far outstrip a couple percent efficiency improvement.

      Add to the list of solutions: high speed rail (and after hyper loop proves it works, that too. ). and, oh by the way, high speed rail is more comfortable and faster for its relevant distance.

    • newnodm

      “biofuels or synfuels”

      Of course this is the answer. It will raise the cost to fly for awhile.

      Sufficient energy density for electric propulsion of large aircraft is probably very far off. Anyone know the kwh requirement for a large commercial aircraft on a typical trip?

      • Ross

        The energy content per unit mass of batteries will probably need to match hydrocarbon based fuels to be viable. There’s a very close relationship between mass and fuel required.

        • Frank

          http://ramblingsdc.net/EnUnits.html says kerosene is 12,800 watt hours/kg, and Elon says he thinks you could fly trans contintinental with 400wh/kg. Electric motors are 90% efficient. Jet engines are not.

          • Ross

            Good point about the greater efficiency. That’s a heck of a diference in energy density. It would be good to see more details on Elon’s calculations.

          • Damon Wright

            I’m pretty sure lithium-air batteries will do the job as Wikipedia reports that they should have 11,140 Wh/kg specific energy in theory.

            Of course, it’s the ‘in theory’ bit that’s the tough part. Right now these only exist in limited form in labs. We are probably at least 10 years away (probably 20) from any kind of mass commercial application of the technology.

            But that’s ultimately the way to go if the technological hurdles can be overcome with sufficient R&D.

    • I hope Elon reads this and it motivates him to work on the electric commercial airliner puzzle. Once Tesla Motors is a bit more self-sufficient perhaps he can found Tesla Airlines.

    • Hans

      Or a switch to other kinds of transportation, like high speed rail

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