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International aviation climate policy failing to deliver on emissions, say scientists

30th January, 2015

Policies to limit aviation emissions are “woefully inadequate” according to a recent paper written by Dr Alice Bows-Larkin of the Tyndell Centre for climate research. The study concludes that the only realistic way of ensuring that international aviation plays its part in reducing emissions is to manage passenger demand. This finding is in line with research by the University of Southampton, and with the Committee on Climate Change’s conclusion that UK air passenger numbers must rise by no more than 60% in order to meet the requirements of the Climate Change Act.

The paper, which compares international aviation policies with shipping polices, highlights the need for mitigation measures to be urgently accelerated to ensure the sector plays a role in meeting the global ‘2°C’ pathway.

Slow progress on introducing emissions policies has led to the CO2 emissions from international aviation and shipping growing 78-83% from 1990 to 2010, close to double the rate for other sectors which grew 40% on average.

Unchecked, the trend looks set to continue with emissions from international aviation forecast to grow by a total of 220 – 515% between 2000 and 2050. Unlike shipping, for which there is a range of options for decarbonising emissions in the short-to-medium term, the aviation sector pins too much hope on the carbon markets to deliver the cuts required, according to the research.

While other studies have concluded that technology, alternative fuels and improvements in operational procedures would be insufficient to counter growth in demand for aviation without complementary market-based measures, this study raises additional concerns about whether such a market-based approach can be as effective as managing future demand for aviation.

This study poses a clear challenge to international policy makers who, in the past, have been reluctant to consider the possibility of preventing unrestricted growth of aviation. It also sends an important message to the next UK government on the need to develop an effective policy on managing avation emissions when considering whether or not to build a new runway.


More information is available in a Green Air Online article here.

Download: All adrift: aviation, shipping, and climate change policy by Dr Alice Bows-Larkin

Image credit: Sean Stayte via Flickr