25 February 2024

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Google and ICCT to lead new oversight committee on air travel emissions data

Led by non-profit research organisation the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and Google, a new independent advisory committee has been formed to oversee the Travel Impact Model (TIM), the methodology used for estimating flight emissions by Google Flights, Booking.com, Expedia and elsewhere in the travel industry. Made up of members from academia, airlines, NGOs and government agencies, the committee will oversee future changes to the TIM, including approval of updates to the model by incorporating the latest scientific knowledge in the field of flight emissions forecasting. The ICCT will serve as a technical secretariat to the committee and collate and conduct research on selected topics, plus commissioning studies where needed. Google, which began estimating and sharing air travel-related GHG emissions on Google Flights using the TIM in 2021, will continue to administer its technical implementation.

“Everyone should be able to find reliable, accurate emissions estimates no matter where they’re booking a flight, and we believe the TIM can provide this kind of trusted, universal standard,” said Kate Brandt, Chief Sustainability Officer at Google. “Together with the ICCT and the new advisory committee, we can empower travellers around the world to make more sustainable choices.”

To be widely adopted by consumers, the partners say emissions estimates should be:

  • Accurate, as validated by real-world data;
  • Precise in distinguishing between low and high emitting tickets;
  • Comprehensive of the full climate impacts of aviation;
  • Futureproof across new aircraft and fuels;
  • Fully transparent in methods; and
  • Provide consistent results, both across carriers and booking platforms.

Improvements in the Travel Impact Model are expected to incorporate non-CO2 climate pollutants like contrails and to credit sustainable aviation fuels and zero emission planes. ICCT said its research had shown passengers can reduce CO2 emissions per trip by up to 60% by choosing a lower-emitting itinerary due to differences including aircraft type, seating configuration, load factors and routing. As airlines begin to deploy new low-carbon technologies, even larger emission reductions will be possible, it added.

“Climate-conscious consumers understand that which flight you choose matters, but they want and need data to make informed decisions,” said Dr Rachel Muncrief, Executive Director of the ICCT. “We are delighted to partner with Google to help establish the TIM as the global standard for providing accurate, transparent and consistent emissions information to consumers at the point of booking.”

Google is a member of the Travalyst Coalition, through which travel and technological platforms collaborate pre-competitively to drive adoption of the TIM and maximise consumer access to this information. “Google and the ICCT will continue to leverage partnerships such as these to ensure the TIM is widely adopted across the travel industry,” said the two partners.

The advisory committee will do its work through an annual in-person assembly, quarterly virtual meetings and monthly work sessions. It intends sharing recommendations through its public website and provide progress updates at key aviation and climate meetings, including the Aviation Carbon 2023 conference in November.

Representatives on the committee include:

  • Jill Blickstein, VP Sustainability, American Airlines
  • Tim Johnson, Director, Aviation Environment Federation
  • Jane Ashton, Sustainability Director, easyJet
  • Achilleas Achilleos, Strategic Programme Officer, European Union Aviation Safety Agency (non-voting board observer)
  • Kevin Welsh, Executive Director, Environment & Energy, US FAA (non-voting board observer)
  • Dr Marc Stettler, Reader in Transport and the Environment, Imperial College London
  • Dr Daniel Rutherford, Aviation Program Director, ICCT (non-voting Secretariat representative)
  • Caroline Drischel, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Lufthansa Group
  • Prof Steven Barrett, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT
  • Andrew Chen, Principal, Aviation Decarbonization, RMI
  • Sally Davey, CEO, Travalyst

Image (Travalyst): Flight emissions information consumers see when searching on Google and other platforms

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