• Global emissions trading essential to close aviation’s emissions gap in 2050 – study

    A new study published today by leading atmospheric scientist Professor David Lee of Manchester Metropolitan University shows that only the adoption of a global ‘market-based measure’ can bring the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) and aviation industry’s shared goal of 2020 ‘carbon neutral growth’ by 2050 within reach. The total impact of all other CO2 reduction measures currently on the table is shown to be insufficient.

    This new piece of research comes just ahead of the March meetings of ICAO’s Council and its High Level Advisory Group on International Aviation and Climate Change, charged with advising on a resolution to address global emissions for ICAO’s triennial Assembly next September.

    The research assesses emissions reduction scenarios based on three types of CO2 cutting measures: improvements in aviation technology and operations; accelerated development and use of biofuels; and application of current regional carbon pricing measures – principally at this point the EU´s Emissions Trading System (ETS). The projections, under a ‘middle of the road’ industry growth scenario, show that an ‘emissions gap’ of 153 to 387 Mtonnes CO2 (the range depends on mitigation level assumptions) remains by 2050. These projections combine all CO2 reduction measures proposed by ICAO and airlines and assume an extension of the EU ETS until 2050. Even at the lower range of uncertainty, this gap represents about a third of today’s international emissions levels.

    The study concludes that an operational and effective worldwide market-based measure such as a globalised ETS would achieve much greater CO2 emissions reductions.

    T&E programme manager for aviation, Bill Hemmings, said: “This study demonstrates that claims from industry, ICAO and governments like the United States that current measures being discussed will be sufficient to tame aviation emissions are patently false. The research shows definitively that pricing carbon via a global MBM is the only way to arrest aviation’s climate impact – already at 5% of the global total, with traffic growing at 4-5% a year.

    With this information, ICAO needs to face up to its responsibilities this year and act to agree a global measure. There can be no further excuses. IATA and the American carriers’ A4A need to accept and urgently embrace carbon pricing – their own numbers simply don’t add up”, Bill Hemmings concluded.

    Another key finding of Lee’s study, which emphasises the importance of carbon markets in reducing emissions, is the role of regional MBMs in the absence of a global measure: The EU ETS, if extended beyond 2020 to 2050, achieves the largest reduction of any single measure analysed [2]. Such measures can deliver CO2 savings of up to 587 Mtonnes CO2 per year in 2050.

    Aviation Environment Federation director, Tim Johnson, said: “Lee’s figures demonstrate that the EU ETS, if extended to 2050, will have a measurable impact on reducing global aviation emissions – and it should be protected until an agreement to implement global carbon pricing is reached. The European Union has ‘stopped the clock’ for a year to give room for ICAO to act. The ICAO Council and High Level Group are now in the spotlight. Those states and parts of industry opposing a global agreement at ICAO need to explain how their plans can achieve the stated goals given Prof. Lee’s analysis.”

    Professor Lee [3] developed the growth scenarios and mitigation options based upon the methodology and databases utilised for the 2011 UNEP Bridging the Emissions Gap report.



    Notes to editors:

    1.     ICAO resolved at the 37th General Assembly that it would work together with its Member States and relevant organizations “to strive to achieve a collective medium term global aspirational goal of keeping the global net carbon emissions from international aviation from 2020 at the same level…” This is referred to in Lee’s report as the ‘2020 carbon-neutral goal’. Likewise, the airlines, under its trade organisation IATA, pledged in 2009 to a ‘carbon-neutral growth by 2020’: https://www.iata.org/pressroom/pr/Pages/2009-06-08-03.aspx.


    2.     Meanwhile, Airlines for America (A4A), the U.S. airlines lobby, continues to campaign against any market-based mechanism, such as a carbon market, for the rest of the decade, preferring an approach which focuses on improving “technology, operations and infrastructure”:https://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/22/eu-icao-climate-idUSL1N0BM12120130222?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563


    3.     Professor David Lee was lead author of the aviation chapter of the 2011 UNEP Bridging the Gap report. He is a member of an IPCC working group on these issues and an independent scientific adviser to ICAO.
    Lee’s graph demonstrating the huge emissions gap between projections and the carbon-neutral goal

    Industry graph displaying how the 2050 goal will be achieved using ‘additional technologies’