IATA commits airline industry to achieving carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and halve emissions by 2050
IATA Director General & CEO Giovanni Bisignani delivers his State of the Industry address
Mon 8 Jun 2009 – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has delivered on a previous commitment to carbon neutrality by setting 2020 as the date by which the airline industry must achieve carbon-neutral growth. It acknowledges that economic measures such as emissions trading will be necessary to bridge the gap between a predicted global annual growth in passenger traffic, which has been increasing at around 5% on average this decade, and fuel efficiency gains of around 2% a year. Meanwhile, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) has said it was disappointed that ICAO’s GIACC was unable to agree on economic measures and urged governments to redouble efforts towards reaching a global solution.
IATA has set three goals: a 1.5% average annual improvement in fuel efficiency from 2009 to 2020, carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and a 50% absolute reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 compared to 2005.
“Two years ago, we set a vision to achieve carbon-neutral growth on the way to a carbon-free future. Today, we have taken a major step forward by committing to a global cap on our emissions in 2020,” announced IATA’s Director General and CEO, Giovanni Bisignani, in his address to industry leaders at the association’s Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit in Kuala Lumpur.
“After this date, aviation’s emissions will not grow even as demand increases. Airlines are the first global industry to make such a bold commitment.
“We are ambitious, but our success will be contingent on governments acting effectively. ICAO must set binding carbon emissions standards on manufacturers for new aircraft. A legal and fiscal framework to support the availability of sustainable biofuels must be established. And governments must work with air navigation service providers to push forward major infrastructure projects such as a Single European Sky, NextGen in the US or fixing the Pearl River Delta [air traffic congestion] in China.”
Bisignani acknowledged that technology, operations and infrastructure improvements alone would not be sufficient to stop growth in air transport’s carbon footprint and that “positive economic measures are needed”. However, he implied they would only be required until the benefits of future technologies, including sustainable biofuels, could “bridge the gap”.
He called for a global sectoral approach for aviation in a post-Kyoto agreement, under which international aviation emissions would be capped and accounted for globally, rather than by state. IATA says it would work with ICAO to ensure compliance but would expect carbon credits in return. “And we should pay only once, not several times,” said Bisignani.
Although there are some who will say the IATA commitment does not go far enough, there is now clear water between the airline industry – with the possible exception of the US – and some key ICAO States on the way forward on an aviation GHG emissions reductions framework that can be taken to the UNFCCC Copenhagen meeting in December. Although the industry is keen that ICAO remains the standard-bearer on the issue, there is some dissatisfaction with the outcome of ICAO’s Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC), which published its final report last week, and its recommendation for aspirational fuel efficiency targets. IATA’s Bisignani failed to mention the final recommendations of GIACC in his speech.
Andrew Herdman, Director General of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, told GreenAir Online: “GIACC has proposed an ambitious target of 2% per year improvement in fuel efficiency. Whilst that is not inconsistent with our projections of gains from technology, operations and infrastructure, it will require government action to address necessary improvements in aviation infrastructure.
“However, even this will not be sufficient to offset higher emissions from the expected 5% annual growth in travel demand. Accordingly, if we are to achieve our medium-term goal of carbon-neutral growth and long term reductions in net emissions, we will need to make use of economic measures.
“Disappointingly, whilst GIACC evaluated various forms of economic measures, including carbon levies and emissions trading in some detail, they were unable to reach a consensus. Yet a patchwork of uncoordinated national and regional initiatives is not the answer. Governments must redouble efforts to resolve their differences and work towards cooperative global solutions. Despite the evident political difficulties, ICAO remains the appropriate United Nations forum to address aviation emissions.”
A spokesman for the Association of European Airlines (AEA) said a global scheme under a sectoral approach, a scenario outlined by GIACC’s market-based measures working group, mirrored AEA’s own proposals for a global approach on international aviation emissions. “Clearly, it is the one we support,” he said. “We hope that ICAO Member States will endorse it at their high level meeting in October as the official ICAO position, and that ICAO will receive a political mandate to represent the aviation sector at COP-15 in December.”