Airbus ‘undermining’ global aircraft fuel efficiency standard – environmental NGOs

Aviation giant Airbus is undermining a global fuel efficiency standard for new aircraft – barely weeks after Europe was instrumental in helping secure an ambitious UN global climate deal in Paris, a group of 17 European environmental NGOs [1] has claimed. Airbus and Boeing aircraft combined account for over 90% of global aviation emissions, but the European manufacturer is arguing it cannot accept a robust efficiency standard as it would damage its business – a claim which suggests it may not be so competitive on fuel efficiency. 

The fuel efficiency design standard is intended to reduce aviation CO2 emissions from new aircraft types but following  Airbus lobbying, European policymakers now start talks at a weak level of ambition that could result in up to 400 Megatonnes of avoidable CO2 emissions between 2020 and 2040. The US wants a strong standard, potentially leaving Europe to take the blame for a complete greenwash if an environmentally ineffective standard is agreed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in February, the NGOs outlined in a letter to Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier.

The NGOs write: “European industry can only benefit from an ambitious aviation fuel efficiency standard which would stimulate billions worth of investment in research and development and create thousands of new jobs. The consequence of a weak standard is hundreds of megatonnes of avoidable greenhouse gas emissions being emitted and airlines burning far more fuel than would have been necessary.”

ICAO has been developing a CO2 standard for new aircraft types since 2010 with the aim of reducing emissions from new aircraft beyond what would have happened under business as usual. But  12th-hour interventions from Airbus on highly technical questions seem to have succeeded in diverting European regulators from ensuring the standard is environmentally effective, the NGOs say.

Aviation accounts for an estimated 5% of global warming [2]. Its annual CO2 emissions are on a par with those of Germany. Traffic is growing 5-6% a year and even ICAO predicts global aviation emissions will likely triple by 2050 [3]. Last month’s Paris climate conference set a new and even more ambitious target – to avoid global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees. After any mention of aviation was dropped from the Paris Agreement, ICAO stated publicly that it would proceed with ambitious climate measures.

Notes to editors:

[1] The 17 environmental NGOs are: ACT Alliance EU; Carbon Market Watch; Centre for Transport and Energy (Czech Republic); Change Partnership; Clean Air Action Group (Hungary); Det Økologiske Råd (Denmark); Focus - Društvo za Sonaraven Razvoj (Slovenia); Germanwatch (Germany); Green Budget Europe; HACAN (UK); Natuur&Milieu (the Netherlands); Milieudefensie (the Netherlands); Quercus - Associação Nacional de Conservação da Natureza (Portugal); RAC-France (France); Transport & Environment; Verkehrsclub Deutschland (Germany); WWF (France/UK).



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