New agreement to curb emissions from global aviation is welcome but weak

A landmark agreement the for the world’s aviation industry was reached on October 6  at the International Civil Aviation Organization  (ICAO) meetings in Montreal.  The global Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) will apply to  the world’s international passenger and cargo flights (approximately 85% of aviation activity), requiring the airlines to buy carbon credits or fund projects that offset their greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement is voluntary from 2021 to 2026, and becomes mandatory in 2027.  A Fact Sheet from the White House  explains the nuts and bolts of the agreement. Widely hailed as a first step in  finally addressing the emissions of  the airline industry, the agreement has also been criticized for being too weak. The International Coalition on Sustainable Aviation “recognizes the agreement as a hard-fought political compromise to see that aviation contributes its fair share in the climate change fight, but critical work remains to ensure environmental integrity and broad participation….. countries sent a worrying signal by deleting key provisions for the aviation agreement that would align its ambitions with the Paris Agreement’s aim of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees with best efforts to not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.”  The Coalition’s press release also contrasts the pros and cons of the agreement. See also overview at Think Progress ; and an article in Climate Home   which summarizes responses from environmentalists and the industry.  The International Council on Clean Transportation, (the folks who exposed the VW diesel scandal), point to a superior route: rather than shifting emissions around, airlines should adopt new technologies, as airplanedescribed in their September  report, Cost assessment of near- and mid-term technologies to improve new aircraft fuel efficiency  .

The large air carriers in Canada are members of the National Airlines Council of Canada, who in 2005 signed a joint industry-government Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and in 2012 partnered with the federal government in  Canada’s Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Aviation. See the NACC website for details of the technological and operational measures taken to reduce emissions to date.   For Air Canada, see their Corporate Sustainability Report for 2015 here.

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