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The Aviation Industry Seeks to Curb CO2 Emissions

By Johan Ericson

"Worldwide, flights produced 781 million tonnes of CO2 in 2015. Globally, humans produced over 36 billion tonnes of CO2." - Air Transport Aviation Group

Air transport is an indispensable means of transportation in the 21st century, contributing to global integration in numerous ways. Not only does it facilitate commerce and connects families, but it also spans over cultures and oceans. Furthermore, civil aviation is instrumental to humanitarian missions, bringing lifesaving equipment and personnel to disaster zones around the world, especially when there is no alternative means of transportation.

The Aviation Industry Seeks to Curb CO2 Emissions  

The Aviation Industry’s Contribution to Climate Change

However, it also impacts climate change. The international civil aviation generates annually 2% of global CO2 emissions and this share is expected to grow according to recent forecasts.

Extreme Measures

The Aviation Industry’s Contribution to Climate ChangeThis worrisome evolution has called for new policies to mitigate aviation’s negative impact on climate change. The Paris agreement of 2015, within the structure of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), did not include any reference to international aviation. The United Nations specialized agency for civil aviation (ICAO) and its member States are actively trying to find a global solution.

The ICAO has undertaken a series of actions to have a better understanding of the situation, to quantify the impact of global CO2 emissions, to find ways in reducing them and to assist its member states in addressing CO2 emissions from international aviation.

The portfolio of available options to address induced CO2 emissions from international aviation encompasses technological, operational as well as market–based measures (MBM). Extreme Measures

In the forthcoming 39th ICAO Triennial Assembly, coming this autumn in Montréal, Canada, 191 Member States will gather to decide on a global MBM scheme for international aviation. The scheme is expected to be implemented from 2020 onwards.​


Efforts to Improve Greenhouse Emissions Come From Within the Industry

One market-based option already running is the European Union Emission Trading System (“EU ETS”). It is covering around 45% of the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and includes civil aviation since 2010. Airlines have been obligated to surrender allowances for their CO2 emissions within EU ETS since 2012.

Presently, this system covers only flights within the European Economic Area (EEA), leaving all long-haul flights without any economic regulation as to their CO2 emissions. To allow time for the international negotiations within the ICAO, the EU ETS requirements were suspended in 2012 for inbound and outbound flights to non-European countries.

With a global MBM scheme in place in 2016, it could be expected that the EU-ETS Aviation system will be replaced by the global MBM. If the Assembly fail to decide, the full ETS is due to snap back, into its full form, by the end of 2016.

Sweden Proposes its own Solution

In spite of the forthcoming global economic regulation on CO2 emissions and the already existing EU ETS, the Swedish government is considering introducing a new aviation tax.

Its intention is to curb the economic growth of the airline industry. If such a tax is introduced, it will in turn have negative consequences on the Swedish economy as well as harm employment.

Generally, the contribution of the aviation sector to a country's economic development can be divided into four different effect categories:

  • Direct
  • Indirect (those working as subcontractors to the aviation sector)
  • Induced (the direct and indirect employees' consumption)
  • Catalytic (greater economic effects of tourism, investments, etc. related to the airline industry).

Furthermore, a supplemental aviation tax would probably have a small impact on climate change.

Aviation Taxes Have a Negative Impact On The Economy

Apart from directly affecting the aviation industry, it would affect its derived sectors and services, such as subcontractors selling consumption articles and those working in tourism, investments, etc. One result from other studies shows that a tax or charge, where the possibility of substitution is at hand, only would lead to a redistribution of traffic and employment from the country having such an aviation tax to other countries lacking it.

We Recommend the Global Approach

Hence, global market-based measures to curb CO2 emissions are preferable to the introduction of supplemental charges and taxes on a national level.