Industry and governments must do more to reduce the rapid growth in aviation emissions, finds study
Fri 25 Sep 2015 – Despite advances, there is a large untapped potential for fuel efficiency gains that would cut costs and reduce emissions in the aviation sector, finds an aviation and shipping study by the New Climate Economy, a flagship project of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. Saving fuel has major economic benefits as well as reducing emissions and the paper cites the example of American Airlines, which has invested $300 million in efficiency measures since 2005 while saving $1.5 billion in fuel costs. Aviation and shipping now produce 5% of global carbon emissions and by 2050 that share could rise to 32%, and this fast growth could undermine global efforts to keep warming under 2 degrees C, warn the authors. Progress within both the international civil aviation and shipping UN agencies ICAO and IMO needs to be dramatically accelerated, says the Global Commission.
The Washington DC-based economic think tank found political barriers are hindering that progress and calls for greater efforts to further reduce in-sector emissions by incentivising investments in energy efficiency and alternative fuels, and through ambitious industry standards.
“What we need now is strong leadership from ICAO and IMO, backed by major companies in each sector, to turn the talk into concrete action,” said the Global Commission’s Michael Jacobs.
The think tank recommends ICAO agrees at its next Assembly in 2016 to implement a global market-based measure (MBM) from 2020 that is ratcheted up over time in line with the global 2 degrees C pathway. The MBM should, it argues, include the potential to raise revenue that could be used to provide support for developing countries and for their climate action. However, it adds, offsetting as a means to meeting emission targets should only be seen as a partial, temporary measure, given the need to decarbonise the global economy over the long term.
It also calls for the agreement negotiated at the UNFCCC climate conference in Paris to clearly articulate the need for the international aviation and shipping sectors to set ambitious emissions reduction targets in line with the 2 degrees C pathway.
ICAO should also strengthen efforts to increase the stringency of its aircraft CO2 standard currently under discussion and ensure it covers all newly delivered aircraft when implemented, says the paper. This will require further efforts by industry, governments and other stakeholders to increase R&D in aircraft and engine design to reduce unnecessary fuel burn both on the ground and en route.
It also recommends governments and industry work together to advance sustainable biofuels to reach a commercial scale, while ensuring the delivery of real emission reductions and the use of stringent sustainability criteria. Finally, the Global Commission calls on governments to make strong efforts to provide alternative modes of transport where viable, such as high-speed rail, to reduce demand for air travel.
“Introducing international efficiency standards will ensure that aviation and shipping make their fair contribution in the fight against climate change,” said lead author of the paper Ipek Gencsu. “But even without the climate benefits, the economic case for taking action in these sectors is very powerful. It should not be delayed any longer.”
The Global Commission was established by seven countries – Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom – as an independent initiative to examine how countries can achieve economic growth while dealing with the risks posed by climate change. It is chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and co-chaired by the economist Lord Nicholas Stern. The Commission comprises 28 leaders from 20 countries, including former heads of governments and finance ministers, heads of international organisations, leading business people, investors, city mayors and economists.