Carbon emissions per passenger has declined more than 50% since 1990, says IATA chief

Our Bureau Geneva | Updated on December 12, 2019

Carbon emissions per passenger have more than halved since 1990 because of an annual fuel efficiency improvement of 2.3 per cent over the period since 2009, some 0.8 percentage points ahead of target, IATA has said.

This progress is due to a combination of investment in better aircraft and operational efficiencies, Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director-General and CEO, said.

“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,” he added.

Airlines have invested some $1 trillion in new aircraft since 2009, and in addition, have signed forward purchase agreements for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) amounting to approximately $6 billion. The introduction of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) will also ensure carbon-neutral growth on international flights from 2020 and raise around $40 billion in climate finance.

Analysis by IATA shows that efforts to deliberately suppress air travel through punitive passenger taxes are inefficient and largely ineffective at reducing carbon.

The CORSIA scheme’s effectiveness lies in its global scope. It is estimated that it will reduce emissions by around 2.5 billion tonnes over the lifetime of the scheme. But the global goodwill towards implementing CORSIA is being compromised by governments introducing a patchwork of carbon taxes. A series of decisions have been taken or proposals have been formulated 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 do 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.

“Governments must focus their efforts correctly. Flying drives prosperity. It is not the enemy. Cutting carbon must be at the forefront. And government leadership is needed to incentivise the commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuels, drive efficiencies in air traffic management and support research into next-generation low-carbon energy sources,” said de Juniac.

Published on December 12, 2019

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