24 September 2023

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Mitigating 1.8 gigatons of CO2 by 2050 will require trillions of dollars of investment, says IATA chief

Speaking at its AGM in Doha, IATA Director General Willie Walsh said industry projections showed 1.8 gigatons of carbon – nearly twice that emitted in pre-pandemic 2019 – will need to be mitigated by 2050, requiring investments running into trillions of dollars. Investment at that magnitude must be supported by globally consistent policies, take into account differing levels of development and do not distort competition, he said. At its last AGM, IATA adopted an industry goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, with governments at ICAO about to start talks on a long-term aspirational goal (LTAG) ahead of the UN agency’s 41st Assembly starting in late September. Although negotiations are expected to be tough, Walsh is optimistic governments will support the industry target. During the AGM, IATA launched an online tool, CO2 Connect, which it claims will provide the most accurate CO2 emission calculations for any given commercial passenger flight and will set it apart from other theoretical data models in existence. IATA is expecting industry-wide profitability to return in 2023 although rising fuel prices will see the proportion of overall costs attributed to fuel rising from 19% in 2021 to 24% this year.

Walsh told industry leaders attending the AGM in Doha, hosted by Qatar Airways, the decarbonisation of the global economy would require investment across countries and across decades, particularly in the transition away from fossil fuels, which would be a huge challenge. “At the IATA AGM in October 2021, IATA member airlines took the monumental decision to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050,” he said, “As we move from commitment to action, it is critical that the industry is supported by governments with policies that are focused on the same decarbonisation goal.

“People want to see aviation decarbonise. They expect the industry and governments working together. The industry’s determination to achieve net zero by 2050 is firm. How would governments explain the failure to reach an agreement to their citizens?”

IATA says a recent survey it carried out showed improving the environmental impact of airlines is seen as a post-pandemic priority for passengers, with 73% of respondents wanting the industry to focus on reducing its climate impact. Two-thirds of those polled agreed that taxing the industry would not achieve net zero faster and expressed concern about the money raised not being earmarked for decarbonisation projects.

The launch of the CO2 Connect emissions calculator is in response to a growing demand for CO2 data transparency linked to airline specific and actual fuel burn information and load factors, said IATA, which is partnering with B2B travel platform American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT). It utilises the newly developed CO2 Calculation Methodology adopted by IATA’s Passenger Service Conference in March and conceived by representatives from airlines and major aircraft manufacturers, in consultation with international standard-setting bodies and logistics services providers (see article).

The tool is now available to companies within and outside the travel value chain, such as travel management companies, travel agencies, airlines and multinational corporations. According to IATA, they can access the relevant CO2 emissions data and integrate it in a customised manner into their existing flight booking tools, with travel managers being able to easily see the CO2 emissions per routing. The tool also permits the consolidation of data for corporate reporting purposes.

The calculation methodology is aligned with ICAO’s CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme guidance on fuel measurement and the emissions factor for conversion of jet fuel consumption to CO2. Its weight-based calculation principle allocates CO2 emissions by passenger and belly cargo, with cabin class weighting and multipliers to reflect different cabin configurations of airlines. The methodology also provides guidance on non-CO2 related emissions and Radiative Forcing Index, as well as guidance on carbon offsets and sustainable aviation fuel as part of the CO2 calculation.

“With IATA CO2 Connect, individuals and corporate travel managers can get standardised accurate calculations to make the most sustainable choices for their air travel, taking into consideration aircraft types, routings and class of service,” said Frederic Leger, IATA’s SVP for Commercial Products & Services.

In its latest Global Outlook for Air Transport released during the AGM, IATA estimates the airline fuel bill this year will be around $192 billion, based on an expected average price for Brent crude of $101.2/barrel and $125.5/barrel for jet kerosene. Airlines are expected to consume 321 billion litres of fuel in 2022, compared with 359 billion litres in 2019.

Carbon emissions in pre-pandemic 2019 totalled 905 million tonnes (Mt), before falling to 495 Mt in 2020. In 2021 they are estimated to have risen to 577 Mt and in 2022, forecast to increase significantly to 809 Mt, an increase of 40.4% over the previous year.

High oil and fuel prices are likely to see airlines improve their fuel efficiency, both through the use of more efficient aircraft and through operational decisions, said IATA. As the aviation industry recovers from what it describes as the “greatest shock in its history”, IATA expects growing industry confidence in its financial performance to be reflected in rising aircraft deliveries, although this will be offset by an increased debt burden, geopolitical conflict and rising labour, energy and climate change costs.

“The high fuel prices are seemingly not affecting people’s thirst for travel at the current junction,” adds the Outlook. “However, once consumers have filled their travel deficit, this relative price insensitivity of demand could fade in 2023 and airlines might find it more challenging to manage the fuel price increase with respect to demand next year.”

Photo: Willie Walsh opens the IATA AGM in Doha, Qatar

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