31 May 2023

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

IATA to release first industry-developed methodology for calculating airline passenger CO2 emissions

With travellers, corporate travel managers and travel agents increasingly demanding accurate and precise emissions data, airline trade body IATA has launched the first industry-developed methodology for calculating CO2 emissions per passenger for a specific flight. The IATA Recommended Practice Per-Passenger CO2 Calculation Methodology was developed by a working group consisting of 20 major airlines, with major aircraft manufacturers validating the methodology as it was being developed. In parallel, IATA said it consulted with stakeholders across the industry, including international standards-setting bodies and major freight forwarders and shippers. The adoption of the methodology is subject to a vote being taken on March 29 by member airlines at the IATA Passenger Services Conference, after which more details about the methodology will be released. IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, said the CO2 calculation would enable organisations and individuals to make informed choices about flying sustainably, including decisions on investing in voluntary carbon offsetting or the use of sustainable aviation fuels.

“The plethora of carbon calculation methodologies with varying results creates confusion and dents consumer confidence,” he commented. “Aviation is committed to achieving net zero by 2050. By creating an accepted industry standard for calculating aviation’s carbon emissions, we are putting in place essential support to achieve this goal. The IATA Passenger CO2 Calculation Methodology is the most authoritative tool, and it is ready for airlines, travel agents and passengers to adopt.”

IATA reported a large number of travel providers, travel agents and corporate travel management companies had already expressed interest in using the methodology to calculate passenger CO2 emissions. Once approved by IATA’s standard setting body (the Passenger Standards Conference), the industry body said the Recommended Practice Methodology will be published on its website and accessible to everyone [*].

The following factors have been taken into account by the methodology:

  • Guidance on fuel measurement, aligned with ICAO’s CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme;
  • Clearly defined scope to calculate CO2 emissions in relation to airlines’ flying activities;
  • Guidance on non-CO2 related emissions and Radiative Forcing Index (RFI);
  • Weight-based calculation principle: allocation of CO2 emission by passenger and belly cargo;
  • Guidance on passenger weight, using actual and standard weight;
  • Emissions Factor for conversion of jet fuel consumption to CO2, fully aligned with CORSIA;
  • Cabin class weighting and multipliers to reflect different cabin configurations of airlines; and
  • Guidance on SAF and carbon offsets as part of the CO2 calculation.

IATA added that although some elements of its methodology aligns with ICAO’s, other important elements “have been reviewed, updated and improved to reflect recent developments in the industry.” As an example, it said, the allocation of fuel in relation to operational equipment weight and cabin class has been revised based on airline and aircraft manufacturer information, while guidance on SAF and carbon offsets has been included.

Although the calculation scope is confined to the fuel burn and CO2 emissions related to flight operations, IATA said there was flexibility to optionally include upstream CO2 emissions – those that are in relation to the production or transportation of jet fuel, as opposed to direct emissions, resulting from combustion during a flight – should these be required by local regulations. In addition, although IATA stressed it “does not recommend taking them into account”, the user can display non-CO2 and non-aircraft emissions, as well as RFI, indicating they were included in the calculation.

“It is a major piece of work and I thank all the 20 airlines that worked with us to develop a passenger CO2 standard methodology that will provide transparency, comparability and accuracy,” said Michael Schneider, Assistant Director, Aviation Environment, IATA. “The standard has been developed by the industry for the industry and is to be used by travel management companies, online travel agencies, travel search engines, travel agents and anyone who wants to understand the environmental impact of taking a flight. We’re grateful for the support given by manufacturers, freight forwarders, shippers and corporates, who have given their input and insights.”

[*] Update: Details on the methodology can now be found here

Image: Skyscanner