Airlines commit to climate action ahead of Paris

Airbus, Boeing and Rolls-Royce among signatories to open letter pledging a carbon market to curb aviation emissions

Planes are getting more energy efficient (Pic: Flickr/Mercedes Dayanara)

Planes are getting more energy efficient (Pic: Flickr/Mercedes Dayanara)

By Megan Darby

Aviation industry leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to curbing the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of a Paris climate deal.

Chiefs of Boeing, Airbus and Rolls-Royce were among 28 signatories to an open letter published on Wednesday, pledging to stabilise emissions from 2020 and halve them by 2050 from a 2005 baseline.

To hit those targets, they emphasised the need to agree a carbon market at the 2016 summit of UN aviation authority, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

They wrote: “It’s a challenging task. But it is one to which the aviation industry is fully committed.”

Representing more than 90% of airline traffic worldwide, nearly a trillion dollars of annual revenue and 4 million employees, the organisations called on governments to support their goals.

Michael Gill, head of the Air Transport Action Group which coordinated the letter, said: “This is an influential set of business leaders adding their voice to those supporting climate action in the lead-up to the COP21 negotiations in Paris and one year ahead of aviation’s own climate deadline.”

The industry aims to meet rising demand for flights without increasing emissions from 2020 onwards.

That will involve increasing fuel efficiency, developing biofuels and offsetting any emissions growth that cannot be avoided.

Yet industry figures have warned the design of a market mechanism to offset emissions by investing in low carbon development projects is behind schedule.

WWF-UK aviation specialist James Beard said: “There are key decisions that still need to be taken on the ICAO market-based measure, including what sorts of offsets and biofuels will be allowed. It’s crucial that these decisions are fair for all countries and promote sustainable development.

“The target of carbon neutral growth from 2020 is a start but much more ambition will be needed. The aviation industry cannot rely on offsets indefinitely. It must pull its weight on both reducing emissions and providing climate finance for developing countries.”

Read more on: Aviation | UN climate talks