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Carbon emissions


Carbon Emissions 

Aviation accounts for 2 percent of man-made global carbon emissions, and with global demand for passenger and cargo traffic forecasted to increase, it is predicted to grow to 3 percent by 2050, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.   

The aviation industry has not been complacent, but rather has made significant progress in reducing its impact on the environment since the beginning of the jet age nearly 40 years ago.  Advancements in technology have resulted in a 70% reduction in fuel consumption, and therefore CO2 emissions (CO2 emissions from aircraft are directly proportional to the amount of aviation fuel consumed), when compared to original commercial jets. 

CO2 emissions are an important global environmental issue.  As a leader of the air cargo industry, TIACA recognizes our environmental responsibilities and is committed to working in partnership with governments and industry representatives to address aviation's impact on the environment.  TIACA strongly supports a global approach to addressing this global issue.

In this regard, TIACA supports the leadership role of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the joint industry targets developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and endorsed by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), i.e., an average annual fuel efficiency improvement of 1.5% to 2020, carbon neutral growth from 2020, and the aspirational goal of a net 50% reduction in 2005 carbon dioxide emission levels by 2050.



Carbon EmissionsPosted: 6-25-09
Aviation and Global Climate Change in the 21st Century (April 2009)

The authors that had assessed aviation's contribution to climate change to be 3% in the Fourth Assessment Reports (AR4) is now estimating aviation's contribution to climate change to be 3.5% without cirrus and 4.9% with cirrus.

TIACA’s View:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states in its 1999 report on aviation and climate change that airplanes emit 2% of man-made CO2 in 1992 and is expected to grow to 3% in 2050. The Aviation and Global Climate Change in the 21st Century report contains CO2 data that indicates aviation remains 2% of anthropogenic CO2.

Aviation is the only industry that has asked the IPCC for a total assessment on climate change. The original assessment done in 1999 used RF as a way to assess the impact beyond CO2. Given the considerable uncertainty of the other gases, particularly those like aviation-induced cloudiness (AIC) that is unique to aviation, a more direct and understood comparison of aviation to other anthropogenic actives is better done via CO2.

TIACA, however, will continue to monitor what effects other gases (NOx, H2O vapor, contrails, AIC, sulphate particles, and soot particles) have on climate change and as more is understood what these effects are, we will be in a better position to correctly address how aviation can reduce its impact on the environment. More...


This section features current policy initiatives on which TIACA or its members may wish to comment, or at least be informed, given the potential impact on member operations. It will be updated as developments warrant.

The views and/or positions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views and/or positions of TIACA.

Regulatory Reports


The Future of Aviation Advisory Committee (FAAC) issued a series of recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation, calling for U.S. support for sustainable alternative aviation fuels, development and implementation of the NextGen air traffic management system, and an international approach to aviation carbon emissions.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the metrics used by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to monitor implementation of NextGen capabilities and measure outcomes. THE GAO recommends the FAA develop an action plan for agreeing with stakeholders on specific outcome-based performance metrics for NextGen.
This report by the Cool Chain Association demonstrates the need to assess a product's entire life cycle and transportation history in evaluating carbon emissions, rather than assuming that locally grown products have a smaller carbon footprint. In many cases, the foreign grown, air transported product has lower total emissions. Additionally, airfreight provides a source of much needed economic growth for many developing countries.
Status: Final Rule Deadline/Effective Date: Aug. 11, 2010. Compliance date Jan. 1, 2020.
The May/June 2010 issue of FAA’s publication, FAA Safety Briefing, introduces the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, and focuses on the benefits for aviation interests, including more efficient navigation, more effective communications, and greatly improved surveillance capabilities. Articles in the issue address ADS-B, performance-based navigation, and the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems.
In testimony before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Aviation, the U.S. General Accountability Office identified current challenges to interagency coordination on NextGen and to integration of short, medium and long-term plans for NextGen. The report highlights key decisions that must be made in these areas. For the full testimony, click here.
As part of its work reviewing climate change policy options, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has issued a report analyzing options for selling emissions allowances under a cap-and-trade program. The report recommends that policymakers’ goals be identified before determining the method by which the emissions will be sold.
Status: Resolution Deadline/Effective Date: To be forwarded immediately
This testimony, provided to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Aviation, outlines the challenges for NextGen implementation. Presented by the Government Accountability Office, the testimony highlights challenges relating to resource and environmental issues, FAA culture and business practice, and equipping aircraft with new technologies.
In this testimony to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Aviation, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation identifies actions needed now for the advancement of NextGen goals, including: establishment of a five-year funding profile; better metrics for measuring progress and benefits; and a strategy for linking NextGen and other transformational efforts such as ADS-B.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report surveying existing research and concluding that aircraft greenhouse gas emissions are likely to grow in the future. However, most experts predict various technological and other advances will help reduce future emissions.
The European Commission has published a list, linking international airlines with service in EU countries to a specific EU member state for purposes of ensuring compliance with the EU emissions trading scheme. The list is preliminary and the EU is accepting comments through March 31.For the full EU announcement, click here. Deadline for Comments: March 31, 2009
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report critical of the EU’s emissions trading scheme and the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism. The report concludes that the “programs’ effects on emissions are uncertain, and their effects on sustainable development have been limited” and says that the fundamental tradeoffs inherent in the carbon offset program “may not be a reliable long-term approach to climate change mitigation.”
A new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concludes that the Voluntary Airport Low Emissions (VALE) program, an FAA program with nine current airport participants, has reduced total air emissions at participating airports. VALE allows airports to use money set aside under the federal Airport Improvement Program for projects targeted to reduce air emissions. Funding for VALE projects increased from $400,000 in fiscal year 2005 to $20 million in fiscal year 2008.
The EC is requesting comments on guidelines regarding aviation's inclusion in the EU's emissions trading scheme. The guidelines would apply to the monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions and activity data. For additional information, click here. Deadline: November 3, 2008
EPA invites public comment on regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Members are encouraged to review the Federal Register publication and submit comments. TIACA welcomes any suggestions from members on points to consider on any submission to EPA. Deadline: November 28, 2008
On May 5, 2010, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing on the impact of volcanic ash on aircraft. The hearing delved into the recent shutdown of European airspace, possible similar situations in U.S. airspace, and the status of research on ash contamination and air travel. Hearing details are available by clicking the link above.
A US Department of Transportation study concludes that 29% of all US greenhouse gas emissions, and 5% of global emissions, are attributable to vehicular fuel use. Almost 60% of emissions are from light-duty vehicles, with 19% from freight trucks and 12% from aircraft. The study details several strategies that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, such as using low-carbon fuels, and highlights NextGen’s potential for reducing aviation emissions by up to 10% by 2025.
IATA's "A global approach to reducing aviation emissions". Explains IATA's strategy to achieve its targets for emissions reduction and how governments can assist. The targets include halting growth in emissions form 2020 and then cutting emissions in half by 2050, as compared to 2005 levels.
Op-ed by Steve Sear, Delta Air Lines VP of Global Sales "Cap-and-Trade Policy Could Hamper the Reduction of Airline Carbon Emissions". This op-ed discusses how the aviation industry's efforts may be jeopardized by pending environmental legislation, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA).
ICAO working paper titled "A Global Sectoral Approach for Aviation" for the High-Level Meeting on International Aviation and Climate Change. This paper encourages Governments to lend their support for ICAO to be the UN body to set and administer aviation-specific standards and targets dealing with CO2 emissions.
This document describes the Copenhagen process and ongoing airline industry environmental efforts. IATA details its recommended policy approach in Copenhagen with an aim towards achieving carbon-neutral growth in 2020. The document also includes key principles that need to be taken into account for a global approach towards aviation within the Copenhagen process.
Statement of James C. May, President and CEO of the Air Transport Association of America before the Subcommittee on Aviation of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. This testimony discusses the role airlines take in controlling emissions.
This research, conducted by the Economics and Policy Research Branch of the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, evaluates the concept of food miles and identifies the limitations of using it as a measure of the environmental and economic impacts of food. The research concludes that food miles fails to account for other environmental impacts involved in food production and possible negative impacts on economic development.
Op-ed by U.S. Congressman Costello entitled, "Aviation sector leads travel industry on energy efficiency". This op-ed discusses the progress made by the aviation industry on energy efficiency. It also outlines the importance of aviation emissions and the work that the industry is undertaking to increase fuel efficiency.
Boeing's 2008 environmental report which details its efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its opreations, products and services.
The paper sketches the prospects for the policy predicition of incorporating aviation into the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). Subject is the likely economic impact that the EU ETS would have on cargo airlines under the official European Commission proposal. The analysis investigates the emissions trading costs arising to cargo airlines as well as the impact on prices and demand when trading costs are passed through to consumers.
TIACA commissioned a report by Cranfield University in the UK that looks at: air transports existing contribution to global CO2 emissions, operational and regulatory constraints, future global CO2 emissions scenarios, investment in greater fuel efficiency in the future, the nature of the air cargo network and its effect on the industry's fuel efficiency and the role of air cargo in developing country exports.
A Cranfield University comparative study of roses produced in Kenya and sold in the British market versus roses produced in the Netherlands and also sold in Great Britain. The report was conducted using the Environmental Life Cycle Assessment. This study concludes that the greenhouse gas emissions for the Dutch roses were 5.8 times more than the emissions for the Kenyan roses.



Q. What are your thoughts on the EU ETS? What is TIACA's policy on emissions trading schemes? Do you think there should be a global scheme, and what lobbying, if any, are you doing to see that that happens? Are you working with IATA?

A. Reducing aviation’s environmental impact is one of our top priorities. TIACA believes this is a global issue that requires a global approach. We believe that working with ICAO and its current Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC) to come to an agreed common, global approach, rather than individually or regionally imposed ETS systems, would yield a greater impact in reducing aviation’s emissions.

As issues pertaining to air cargo and the environment arise, we are in contact with IATA as well as relevant policymakers in the EU and in other countries to voice our members’ concerns and to communicate our support for a global approach. We have and will continue to work closely with IATA and other associations to expand cooperation and coordination on this and other key issues for the air cargo industry.

Q. How have you been supporting the cargo carriers? What are the airlines saying to you?

A. Our members, both all-cargo and passenger airlines, have emphasized the difficulties they would face in complying with a variety of emissions schemes imposed by various countries around the world. They also believe it is important that any policy take into account the fact that aviation represents approximately 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions and is projected to grow to only about 3% by 2050.

Furthermore, the industry, of its own volition, has a significant track record of reducing fuel consumption and thus greenhouse gas emissions.  Since the beginning of the jet age nearly 50 years ago, technology has advanced the aviation industry to achieve incredible reductions in the environmental impact of airplanes. These advancements in technology have resulted in a 70% reduction in fuel consumption and therefore CO2 emissions (CO2 emissions from aircraft are directly proportional to the amount of aviation fuel consumed). In addition, today’s airplanes are 30dB quieter – or a 90% reduction in the noise footprint when compared to original commercial jets. This improvement trend will continue with the newest generation of airplanes, which offer an additional 15-25% improvement in fuel consumption and hence CO2 emission.

Q. Are there any particular issues surrounding emissions trading schemes which affect the air freight industry and not the passenger business?

A. The issue of “food miles” is particularly important for the air freight industry. The concept is misleading to the consumer, and fails to acknowledge air cargo’s contribution to economic development. “Food miles” fails to measure the true carbon footprint of a food product through the entire life cycle from production to consumption. Labeling that identifies the carbon footprint of a product should not just be limited to air transport, as this is only one link of the entire supply chain. Differences in food production and availability of resources in different parts of the world impact the carbon footprint of the product. For example, flowers grown in Kenya and then air freighted to Europe can have substantially less total CO2 emissions than home-grown product under artificial conditions.

Furthermore, food miles discount air cargo’s role as an engine for economic development. Air cargo allows remote agricultural regions to access world markets. The success of these operations depends on rapid, efficient and reliable delivery of the consignment in the best possible condition, with minimum loss or damage. Airfreight is the only transport means to these imperative ends.

Q. Some airlines believe industry bodies have been slow to act on environmental issues. What is your response to that?

A. As with any issue and any sector, there will always be differences of opinion and certain players who may want to move faster and farther than others. As an industry association, TIACA’s responsibility is to give due consideration to the interests of all its members, and therefore we need some time to come to agreement on a common position on major issues. We will continue working to be as responsive as possible on issues, while simultaneously ensuring that our members have input into our decision-making process. This may mean we need a bit of time to finalize a position, but we will make every effort to ensure that our representations are timely.

Q. Do emissions trading schemes affect the air cargo industry in a different way from the passenger side of the business?

A. Under the EU ETS Directive there is no differentiation between passenger and cargo aircraft and so we would not expect the emissions trading schemes to affect the air cargo industry differently from the passenger industry.

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Useful Links

The International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) Air Transport Bureau Environment Section website. The Environment Sections work is focused mainly on aircraft noise and the impact of engine emissions. Additional information on the website includes climate change, environmental standards, standards, etc.
The European Commission's website on aviation and climate change includes information on the legislation implementing the EU Emissions Trading Scheme which was implemented in order to mitigate the climate change impacts of aviation.
Boeing's environmental website which details the company's efforts to make air transport cleaner, quieter and more efficient. The website contains articles and further information on biofuels, innovation, renewable energy, air traffic efficiency and noise reduction.
Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is a nonprofit organization that operates a global climate change reporting system. The data is then made available through the CDP.
The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) established with the goal of providing clear information on the measures being taken by the industry to reduce the impact that air transport has on the environment. is working with finding solutions to the problems of aircraft noise and aircraft engine emissions.'s website offers further information on aviation, its contributions to climate change and the work being done to address this problem.
EUROCONTROL's environmental website which contains information on environmental news, management of ATM operations and environmental issues for aviation. EUROCONTROL sets forth the issues as: aircraft noise, local air quality, climate change, third party risk, environment economics and aviation and security. The website also contains the documents from which EUROCONTROL has sourced the information contained on the site.
IATA's position on environmental issues affecting air cargo. With respect to food miles, IATA's position is in line with TIACA's.
This website details NYK Super Eco Ship 2030 concept ship. This ship is a concept to achieve eco-friendly shipping and eventually trend towards the zero emissions goal set forth for 2050.
Transport and Environment (T&E) is an independent European association with the mission of promoting a policy of transport and accessibility, based on the principles of sustainable development. T&E is now the main environmental organization that campaigns for sustainable transport at the EU level in Brussels, Belgium.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Climate Leaders website offers information on the program which is an industry-government partnership. The program strives to assist companies in developing climate change strategies while the companies pledge to decrease their environmental impact through greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate Leaders website includes information on the program including benefits of membership and a partnership directory
The Federal Aviation Administration is sponsible for the safety of civil aviation. This website contains information on aircraft, airports, air traffic, data and research, licenses and certificates, regulations and policies and training and testing. Its regulations section contains information on numerous topics including: climate change, emissions, noise abatement and bio-based products.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is an association of companies that deals entirely with business and sustainable development. The website for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development contains information on the Council's Focus Areas: Energy and Climate, Development, Business Role and Ecosystems. The website also details the Council's Projects and Initiatives which work towards achieving sustainable development.