Six years ago, at Le Bourget airport, around 200 parties adopted The Paris Agreement aiming to limit global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels. Despite this agreement, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) today estimates that the world must make net emissions of CO2 at least 45% lower in 2030 than they were in 2010, and reduce them to zero by the middle of this century to achieve this. Over the past weeks, as global representatives gathered in Glasgow for COP26, including our own Martine Jauroyon, Egis’s Chief Transformation & CSR Officer accompanying the French delegation, there is an increasing will and pressure to double down on previous climate commitments.
Considering the IPCC estimates that a ‘one year pulse emission’ (ie. one year of combined emissions) from the aviation sector leads to a net surface warming at 20 and 100 year horizons, and that aviation emissions were previously projected to rise by 200% – 360% by 2050 (even with lower-carbon alternative fuels factored in), the industry is an obvious target for stronger measures. But what exactly could these mean for aviation?
The main mention of aviation at COP26 was in the context of the UK led International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition (IACAC) – a group of 23 countries (at the time of writing), who “commit to working together to support the adoption of an ambitious global goal for international aviation CO2 emissions by ICAO”.
The declaration issued by the IACAC essentially recognises that aviation has been making material contributions to climate change, that traffic numbers are expected to increase significantly over the next 30 years, and that there is a need to develop initiatives that enable the aviation industry to continue to build back better and grow in a sustainable manner. This is to be achieved thanks to an 8-point agenda, summarised below:
- International cooperation through ICAO and other “complementary cooperative initiatives” to reduce aviation CO2 emissions;
- The adoption of more ambitious sustainability targets through ICAO and commitment towards net zero CO2 emissions by 2050;
- Ensuring CORSIA effectiveness through timely implementation, expanded participation, regulatory enforcement, advanced ambition, and alleviation of emission double-counting;
- Promoting the development and deployment of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), in particular avoiding competition with food production for land use and water supply;
- Promoting the development and deployment, through international and national measures, of innovative new low- and zero-carbon aircraft technologies;
- Preparing up-to-date, concrete, and ambitious state action plans to reduce aviation emissions and submitting these plans to ICAO in advance of the 41st ICAO Assembly (September 2022);
- Promoting capacity support for the implementation of CORSIA and other climate measures, including access to tools, expertise, accreditation, and markets for SAF and Emissions Units;
- Convening periodically at both ministerial and official levels with a view to advancing and reviewing progress on the above commitments.
At first glance, the statement seems less concrete than some of the other initiatives we have seen at COP26, hovering at a relatively high level over the issue and making general commitments, which many have heard before. Furthermore, the initial number of 23 signatories, not including major players in Europe and Asia-Pacific, is low when compared to the 200 or so who signed up to The Paris Agreement. This leads us to question exactly how willing governments are to sign up to measures which could constrain the recovery and growth of aviation in the current climate.