Airlines deepen climate goal despite Chinese opposition By Reuters
Rajesh Kumar Singh Singh, Tim Hepher
BOSTON, (Reuters) – Global airlines agreed Monday to intensify their plans to address climate change in light of growing pressure from regulators as well environmental groups. This is in response to increasing concerns about the impacts of billions more passengers flying to and from the air over the coming decades.
International Air Transport Association is a grouping of 290 airlines including many state carriers. It has committed to “net-zero” carbon emission by 2050. This move ties climate action in the sector to the 2015 Paris accord.
The 12-year old pledge to reduce carbon emissions by half by 2050 is also being accelerated. This includes tackling 300m tonnes more of carbon using measures such as hybrid-electric and bio-based sustainable aircraft fuels.
The Chinese Airlines reacted strongly to these moves, echoing the differences between Beijing & the West about environmental policy weeks before new international talks at Glasgow.
China Eastern, one China’s top-three state carriers, and the fourth-largest domestic carrier in the world, stated that airlines must recognize particular challenges faced by developing countries. This is a persistent and difficult issue in international climate negotiations.
Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA acknowledged that the goal was “an additional challenge in a very difficult period,” but appealed to unity.
Net zero for aviation is an audacious, bold commitment. He said that net zero is a bold, audacious commitment but it’s also necessary.”
The target was adopted by airlines as leaders met for the first-time since the COVID-19 crises, which has accumulated losses of $200 billion between 2020-2022.
IATA projected a drop in industry losses next year to $11.6 billion from a steeper-than-expected $51.8 billion loss in 2021.
China temporarily overtook the United States in terms of the world’s biggest domestic aviation market, but is predicted to return the crown by the end if this decade.
According to the Paris Agreement, all countries committed to limiting the global warming to below preindustrial levels. According to scientists, the goal is to reduce emissions by net zero by 2050.
According to the United Nations, more than 130 countries have established or are considering targets for reducing their carbon emissions to net zero by 2060. China is aiming to “carbon neutralize” emissions by 2060.
To be “carbon neutral” means to achieve partial reductions through methods such as offset schemes or transfer reductions from other industries. Critics say this slows down effective action.
The goal of “net zero” carbon is to reduce emissions while offsetting last resort. According to the aviation industry, it will use large amounts of offsets initially while waiting for progress with new technology.
The reliance upon a global offset program for the industry has been criticized by environmental groups. They argue that it should not be the primary priority to stop carbon from reaching the atmosphere.
The total aviation industry promises would include removing 21.2 gigatons or compensating them over the next 30-years at an estimated total cost of $1.6 billion.
“Big announcements mean nothing if they’re not backed by credible policy,” said Jo Dardenne, aviation manager at Brussels-based T&E.
Leaders of airlines claim they are under constant pressure to raise targets and keep their seat at the table despite increasing risks from climate change.
Global emissions are about 3% due to air travel.
Pieter Elbers, KLM’s Chief Executive Officer said that there is “a shift in society” and that airlines reflect their societies.
As aviation looks for a common front to achieve its goals, manufacturers immediately responded with their own pledges. However, planemakers have different priorities, with Airbus putting more emphasis on hydrogen, despite the skepticism of Boeing (NYSE:).
This meeting revealed friction between governments and airlines over the ageing of air traffic systems. Governments claim that these systems cause delays and hinder efforts to reduce emissions.
Others disputes came back to light when Walsh, a former British Airways CEO who was known for his brutal dealings with suppliers and unions, delved into high airport fees including Heathrow’s “off-the-charts” charges.