G8 calls for cuts in aviation carbon pollution – British government remains committed to offsets

July 12, 2009

“Commercial aviation is the first global industry to commit to a carbon-neutral growth target by 2020”. Magic but who carries responsibility if the targets are missed?

On 9th July the Major Economies Forum of 16 developed and developing nations issued a declaration at the G8 summit recognising the scientific view that the increase in the average global temperature should not exceed 2°C and accepted that some adverse effects of climate change were already taking place.

Leaders at the G8 summit called for more to be done by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the UN agency responsible for civil aviation. The G8 leaders require the airline sector to make their contribution to the international target as a sector – outside of the national carbon pollution accounts.

Bisignani, DG of IATA, welcomed this, saying: “Commercial aviation is the first global industry to commit to a carbon-neutral growth target by 2020”. Time will tell whether carbon neutral growth can be achieved by 2020 – but there are no penalties if the targets are not achieved.

Bisignani has repeated the targets which the commercial aviation industry has set for itself.
•    2009 to 2020 1.5% average annual improvement in fuel efficiency over 11 years – around 17% fuel efficiency improvement by 2020  [- in other words by 2020 there could have been a 17% increase in air miles flown at steady emissions or carbon pollution could be reduced by 17% assuming no increase in air miles flown.]
•    Then from 2020 carbon neutral growth – any increase in air miles would be matched by increased fuel efficiency
•    And by 2050 a 50% absolute reduction in aviation emissions on 2005 emissions.

This would be magic. Who carries responsibility if the targets are missed?

The recession has made a major contribution this year – aviation’s carbon pollution is expected to fall by 7% in 2009 – IATA expects the recession to contribute 5% of the 7%  reduction in 2009 – just 2% is down to increased efficiency.

Bisignani pointed out that aviation’s long-term success on climate change will require governments to play their role: investing in more efficient infrastructure, support for biofuels development and “an appropriate fiscal and legal framework”, Bisignani welcomed the opportunity to work with ICAO to “replace the developing patchwork of environmental taxes and charges with a coordinated approach that does not distort competition, credits airlines for every cent that they pay and ensures that they pay only one”

The British government is still backing off setting; we are apparently buying carbon credits to offset the aviation emissions caused by the UK’s delegation flying to the UN conference on climate change in Montreal. The money will be used to benefit communities in the Kuyasa township in South Africa, paying for the installation of solar water heaters, ceiling insulation and compact fluorescent lights. Elliot Morley a Minister in DEFRA has encouraged holidaymakers to donate to voluntary carbon offsetting schemes.

As worthwhile as some of these initiatives may be they will do nothing to encourage the change required to achieve the ambition of the G8’s targets – medieval pardons purchased as carbon offsets cannot achieve the change required.

There is an aviation forum at http://tiny.cc/rtp254 where you could reply to this post or contribute to the discussion about aircraft pollution and responsibility.

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2 Responses to “G8 calls for cuts in aviation carbon pollution – British government remains committed to offsets”


  1. […] aviation industry is the “first global industry to commit to a carbon-neutral growth target by 2020”. Yet the strategy for achieving this seems to be based on the vain hope for some magic, […]


  2. […] aviation industry is the “first global industry to commit to a carbon-neutral growth target by 2020”. Yet the strategy for achieving this seems to be based on the vain hope for some magic, […]

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