The International Air Transport Association (IATA) claims that carbon emissions per passenger has declined by more than 50% since 1990. The improvement is chiefly attributed to the fact that the aviation industry was able to achieve an annual fuel efficiency improvement of 2.3% since 2009, about 0.8 percentage points ahead of target. This progress is a result of investments in more energy efficient aircrafts and overall operational efficiencies.
Expressing satisfaction at this achivement Alexandre de Juniac the Director General and CEO of IATA explained some of the future goals of IATA “Cutting per passenger emissions in half is an amazing achievement of the technical expertise and innovation in the aviation industry. But we have even bigger ambitions. From 2020 we will cap net emissions. And by 2050 we will cut emissions to half of 2005 levels. Accomplishing these targets means continued investment in new technology, sustainable fuels, and operational improvements”.
Airlines have invested some $1 trillion in new aircraft since 2009, in addition to this they have signed forward purchase agreements for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) amounting to approximately $6 billion. Apart from this the introduction of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) will ensure carbon-neutral growth on international flights from 2020 and raise around $40 billion in climate finance.
Alternative measures are inefficient and fail to cut carbon
Analysis from IATA shows that efforts to deliberately suppress air travel through punitive passenger taxes are inefficient and largely ineffective at reducing carbon emmitions.
The CORSIA scheme’s effectiveness lies in its global scope. It is estimated it will reduce emissions by around 2.5 billion tonnes over the lifetime of the scheme. But global goodwill towards implementing CORSIA is being compromised by governments introducing a patchwork of carbon taxes. A series of decisions or proposals have been made in recent months to levy air passenger taxes, including in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
“Taxation aimed at stopping people from exercising their freedom to fly will make travel more expensive but does very little to reduce emissions. It is a politician’s feel-good solution, without taking responsibility for the negative impact it has on the economy or the mobility restrictions it imposes on people with lower incomes,” said de Juniac.
Long-term, aviation is aiming to reduce emissions with cleaner technology. This will require a financially sound airline sector capable of funding the significant investments that will be needed to make flying sustainable.
“Governments must focus their efforts correctly. Flying drives prosperity. It is not the enemy. Cutting carbon must at the forefront. And government leadership is needed to incentivize the commercialization of sustainable aviation fuels, drive efficiencies in air traffic management and support research into next generation low-carbon energy sources,” said de Juniac.