Airline industry plans to halve carbon emissions

Airlines are estimated to account for around three percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
The global aviation industry has agreed to cut its net carbon emissions to half 2005 levels by 2050 under a plan to be set out on Tuesday by British Airways chief, Willie Walsh.

Mr Walsh, who will outline the initiative at Tuesday’s United Nations forum on climate change in New York, said it was the “best option for the planet” and should be taken up at the December Copenhagen summit, where world leaders are due to come up with a new accord on limiting greenhouse gas emissions to replace the 1997 Kyoto agreement. “International aviation emissions were not included in the Kyoto Protocol 12 years ago,” he said. “Now we have a chance to rectify that omission — and we must seize it.” Should the airline industry be doing more to combat climate change Sound Off below The plan is unlikely to satisfy environmental campaigners, however. By choosing 2005 as the year from which to cut emissions, the aviation industry will be able to make its proposed reductions from a much higher base than if it had chosen 1990, the year used for comparisons by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Although airlines are estimated to account for only around three percent of greenhouse gases, the figure is expected to rise sharply in coming years unless measures are taken to address it.

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The UK government’s committee on climate change, chaired by Lord Turner, has said that if global aviation emissions are left unchecked, they could make up 15 to 20 percent of all CO2 produced in 2050. Carbon dioxide emissions from aviation and shipping were deemed too contentious to include in the Kyoto agreement, but some in the airline industry have been keen to make sure members tackle the issue in the lead-up to Copenhagen, fearing a failure to act could see harsher measures introduced. Mr Walsh said that as well as agreeing to reduce net carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels, the industry had agreed to improve CO2 efficiency by an average of 1.5 percent per year up to 2020 and stabilize net emissions from 2020. The agreement is supported by the 230 airlines in the International Air Transport Association, the world airline trade body. Paul Steele, environment director for the association, said: “The aviation industry is united in its support for a global sectoral approach to emissions reduction. This is what Copenhagen can achieve. The alternative of a patchwork of national and regional policies will lead to conflicting and overlapping regulation, competitive distortion and, potentially, increases in carbon emissions.”