Aviation industry will have to cut CO2 emissions
By Isabelle Smets | Thursday 22 October 2009
The EU’s environment ministers have agreed to oblige the aviation sector to cut its CO
2 emissions by 10% by 2020, compared with the base year of 2005 (see
Europolitics 3844). Conclusions to this effect were adopted at the Environment Council, on 21 October, and will be presented to the European Council, on 29-30 October, with a view to the Copenhagen climate negotiations.
Is this goal ambitious and feasible? Environmental NGOs, which are pushing for the adoption of binding targets for the aviation sector in Copenhagen, recognise that this is an advance, since aviation is not covered by the Kyoto Protocol. Yet they are not enthusiastic about the 10% figure. As summed up by the WWF: “The targets being set are too low, but the principle is important”. Greenpeace and T&E (Transport & Environment) welcome the definition of a target figure but note that under the Council’s agreement the sector will be authorised to increase its emissions by around one third compared with 1990, whereas other sectors will have to make 30% cuts during the same period.
The sector obviously takes a different view. A few weeks ago, the industry presented different proposals with a view to the Copenhagen talks, counting on a stabilisation of emissions and carbon-neutral growth from 2020. The proposals were less ambitious than the position adopted by the environment ministers but should be seen in the context of a more comprehensive commitment since the industry also proposes to improve the sector’s energy efficiency by an average of 1.5% annually until 2020 and to reduce CO
2 emissions by 50% by 2050 compared with 2005. These objectives are the result of an agreement by the entire sector: airlines, airports, air navigation services and the aerospace industry. All defend the idea that the aviation sector should be treated as a whole (no quotas by country) and that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) should define and manage the process.
The problem is that the ICAO, made up of representatives of 190 states, has so far been incapable of agreeing on a global mechanism that would allow achievement of CO
2 emissions reduction targets (a sort of global Emission Trading Scheme). Recently, it agreed on the objective of improving energy efficiency by 2% annually by 2020. This is the position it plans to defend in Copenhagen. But in contrast with the EU’s aims, it does not advance any binding targets for CO
2 emissions reduction compared with the base year.
Three questions to François Gayet
François Gayet is secretary-general of ASD, the Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe, which describes the Environment Council’s targets as “too ambitious”. He chairs the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA), a stakeholder in the targets agreed in the aviation industry.
Why should the industry’s position be considered ambitious?
There are not many industries that have proposed a 50% CO
2 emissions reduction target by 2050. Things won’t be simple: all players – airlines, airports, air traffic controllers – will have to move in the same direction. That means that airlines have to agree to finance the acquisition of new technologies; that manufacturers agree to invest heavily to build these aircraft; that airports agree to change the way they move aircraft around on the tarmac; and that air traffic controllers agree to change the way routes are drawn. The whole sector has to contribute to the common goal.
For energy efficiency, the ICAO adopted a more ambitious figure than yours: a 2% annual improvement, compared with your proposal of 1.5%.
The industry’s position has to be seen comprehensively. We proposed 1.5% for up until 2020 and beyond that date we propose carbon-neutral growth, thus achieving a 50% reduction in our emissions by 2050. What’s more, this has to be seen in a context of economic crisis. An essential way of attaining these objectives is fleet renewal and in today’s economic context, airlines can have a harder time renewing their fleets. We took these factors into account.
How will you manage to achieve these targets?
We will have to work in partnership with governments and regulators. Choices are going to have to be made and we will have to build them into our R&D policy in a coherent way. That is essential. The states have to be involved because they have certain keys. Take air control, for instance. In a region like Europe, we could save up to 10% emissions simply by improving air traffic control. That’s a significant amount. A whole range of aspects will contribute to meeting these targets: technology choices, markets-based options [of the ETS type - Ed] and everything related to alternative fuels and especially biofuels. This is an area requiring tremendous investments. And there is also an economic and legal context to be set up to promote biofuels. There, too, the states have a role to play. So we attach a great deal of importance to this partnership of industry, governments and regulators to ensure that the right options are selected to achieve our targets.