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Airlines Present Climate Change Proposals at UN Forum; 50% Absolute Cut In Emissions by 2050 Compared to 2005

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) presented its proposals for December’s climate change talks to the UN Secretary General’s Summit on Climate Change in New York. The forum took place in the run-up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Copenhagen this December. The aviation sector is united in calling on world leaders to retain a global sectoral approach to reducing aviation emissions under the leadership of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), working in cooperation with the sector through IATA.

The aviation industry presented a paper outlining the industry’s commitment to three sequential targets: 1) Improving carbon efficiency with a 1.5% average annual improvement in fuel efficiency to 2020; 2) Stabilizing emissions with carbon-neutral growth from 2020; and 3) Emissions reductions with a 50% absolute cut in emissions by 2050 compared to 2005.

Air transport is the first industry to commit to carbon-neutral growth at the global level. And we have done it with an aggressive timeline of 2020. Our four-pillar strategy of technology investment, efficient infrastructure, effective operations and positive economic measures will make our vision a reality and is already showing results. Aviation’s emissions are expected to fall 7% in 2009—5% as a result of the recession and 2% directly related to the strategy.

...But our success depends on governments playing their part. They must implement more effective air traffic management: the introduction of NextGen air traffic management in the USA and the Single European Sky in Europe have the potential to save 41 million tonnes of CO2 annually. Governments must also create the legal and fiscal framework to support the development of sustainable biofuels for aviation.

—Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO

The paper also outlined guiding principles to ensure that the global sectoral approach results in emissions reductions, retains funds for investment in environmental initiatives for aviation, preserves a level playing field, provides access to global carbon markets and ensures that airlines cover the environmental cost of their emissions. Principles of IATA’s global sectoral approach include:

  • International aviation should be included in the post-Kyoto framework.

  • Aviation should be treated as a separate sector rather than by country.

  • Aviation emissions should be accounted for at a global level.

  • Any scheme should cover CO2 emissions from aircraft, consistent with the Kyoto protocol. Once more is known about non–CO2 impacts, a new policy should be developed.

  • The sector should be held accountable and pay only once for its emissions.

  • Revenues from economic measures such as emissions trading must be earmarked for environmental purposes. Some of this might be used to support the development of more fuel efficient aircraft or sustainable biofuels.

  • Allow full and unrestricted access to all available abatement measures outside the aviation sector and to carbon markets.

  • All airlines/carriers must be treated equally.

IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 230 airlines comprising 93% of scheduled international air traffic. The Airlines delegation to the UN Leadership Forum on Climate Change includes IATA members Willie Walsh (British Airways), Mats Jansson (SAS Group), Pierre Caussade (Air France–KLM), Chris Schroeder (Qatar Airways) and Paul Steele (IATA).

Speaking at the forum, Willie Walsh, British Airways’s CEO, said that the world has an opportunity to make real progress on curbing aviation’s carbon emissions.

The forthcoming Copenhagen summit represents a historic opportunity for aviation to join the mainstream of the world’s efforts to combat climate change. International aviation emissions were not included in the Kyoto Protocol 12 years ago. Now we have a chance to rectify that omission&mash;and we must seize it.

The global air industry has worked very hard to agree this common plan of action, which would give the UN full control over monitoring and regulating aviation emissions worldwide. This would enable aviation to play its full part in the global effort that will be decided at Copenhagen to stem greenhouse gases across all economic sectors.

—Willie Walsh


Henry Gibson

The airline industry should build and own extra nuclear power in France, and this low carbon source of electricity can displace carbon fueled power in Denmark. Each airline can buy a share of the two new power plants being built there or one in Finland or elsewhere. They could also refurbish or buy one in Canada to substitute for coal power in the US. It would only take two years to refurbish the Canadian one. ..HG..

richard schumacher

Offsets may only pay for a carbon-free source that would have been built anyway. It would be more direct and effective for the industry to use artificial carbon-neutral kerosene. Whether they buy it or make it themselves would be up to them.

Stan Peterson

The trouble with being upright and offering to the politicians your aspirations for might be possible to accomplish in a certain timeframe has never found to be helpful.

Instead of establishing a Ceiling on possibilities, it instantly get converted to a floor, on which to demand more.

Business and technical People misunderstand politicians. Politicians need to out-promise everyone else, including other politicians, in their ONLY product, Speeches.

But their hot-air promises, must not sound outlandish, but reasoned, profound, and semi-believable. They must be noticed for their profundities.

Nothing is easier for a politician to meet his next goal, which is Next Weeks profound sounding Speech, than to take the verbiage of "whatever" and demand a 25% 50% or 100% improvement in "whatever". He doesn't even have to know or care "whatever" is, since the offerers have kindly provided his verbiage for him to quote, without having to know anything about, for something he could care less. He has his "reasoned" and "profound" and "knowledgeable" part ready made.

For the following week, his Next Speech product, can instantly be created. The great one will simply demand the timeframe be cut in half.

That is why the Global Warming, amended to Climate Change, so DOWN as well as UP, can be bad, is such a perfect subject for a politician.

Any promise will never be tested in reality for a couple of hundred years. Technical terms to establish knowledge, reason, profound, etc can be gleaned from any weather report. Terms like temperature, precipitation, drought, storm, rainy, flooding, sunny etc. So the politicians can never be proven to be utterly ignorant and approaching imbecilic IQ level.

Doomsday can be freely predicted even if the worst possible climate change will be no more than the change between 10:00 AM and 12:00 noon, on any day in the year, anywhere in the World.

Will S

Seeing as the developed world is looking at 60-80% cuts in GHG emissions, a 50% drop doesn't show that they are pulling their weight. It's immaterial, though, as that industry will fold when Peak Oil sets in for the final oil crisis and spiraling prices through the world into a state of continuous recession.


Many, more efficient, Turbo-Jets (Q-400++) for short hauls and new much larger Jets for long hauls + more direct (uncontrolled) flights could give a 50% reduction in fuel and GHG (per passenger or cargo tonne/mile).

Improved aircraft and motorization technologies could do another 20% over the next 40 years.

Thomas Pedersen

Amazing as it is, the oil consumption of airplanes is not the defining factor on their economy. Example: Paris-New York, price: $500. Record-high oil prises; "sorry we have to add $10 to the price of the ticket" Who cares!

On a flight from Copenhagen to D.C. the plane took 55 tonnes of fuel on board (assuming plenty extra for contingencies) to transport 220 passengers and 22 tonnes of freight. So, roughly one lbs of fuel per lbs of payload. With luggage and accounting for fuel density, I was responsible for approx 110 litres of fuel consumption on that flight. That's not much.

But there are many avenues to save fuel. Still, aviation NEEDS liquid hydrocarbons like no other fossil fuel burning technology. Trains can run on electricity, ships on coal (if they have to), cars on batteries with range extenders etc. But planes absolutely need the high energy density with respect to both mass and volume that only jetfuel offers.

On a different topic, I applaude the IATA for voluntarily coming with this suggestion for reduction in GHG emissions. And they are wise to do so, although 50% by 2050 is a target none of the CEO's expect to see with their own eyes and can therefore safely commit to. The year-by-year reduction is a much better measure where progress can be monitored from day one. Access to emission trading is only fair when other sectors enjoy the same benefit.


If they used biomass to make the jet fuel, I would say that they could meet those goals.

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