The first week of June marked the annual summit for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and for the first time since the beginning of the emission debate, the industry passed a measure to curb carbon emissions. The European Union has pressured the industry for several years, peaking last year with a measure threatening to include all airlines that fly to Europe in the EU’s carbon market.
Currently, only European-based airlines are capped with emission limits, and those airlines are required to buy carbon offsets in order to stay under the legal amount. The United States and Chinese governments have been resistant to let airlines participate in the EU carbon markets, claiming that emission caps inhibit economic growth. Developing countries have also been resistant, insisting that industrialized nations should pay more to curb emissions, as that is where climate problems are caused.
The plan passed by IATA is a response to the EU’s climate team’s threat to reintroduce the airline cap-and-trade measure unless the industry can create an alternative solution. The new plan encourages the industry to pursue regulations in their home nations in order to meet global carbon emission goals. Caps for emissions will be put into place by 2020, and total emissions will be cut by 50% by 2050. The lead up to the 2020 cap also includes an improvement in fuel efficiency each year for the next seven years.
This particular blogger is not impressed, but when you consider the whole picture, the move is pretty significant. This is the first time the industry has been able to pass a measure to promote sustainability at all. Also, since airlines currently only count for about 3% of carbon emissions, the cooperation has more symbolic value and will likely lead to more stringent standards in the future. Fuel efficiency is a powerful motivator for an industry that constantly struggles financially, so things are looking hopeful for progress.