Countries set to implement aviation emissions cap

Posted on 28 Sep 2016 by Michael Cruickshank

Tomorrow delegates from 190 nations are meeting to create the world’s first agreement to limit carbon dioxide emissions for the aviation sector.

Aircraft are a major source of global CO2 pollution. Image courtesy of Flickr - fdecomite
Aircraft are a major source of global CO2 pollution. Image courtesy of Flickr – fdecomite

The summit, which is being organized by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), will be held in Montreal, Canada, and will last a total of 11 days.

ICAO, itself a UN agency, is looking to build on the momentum from the successful Paris climate agreement, and establish a cap on emissions from this sector.

While the exact details of the deal are still up in the air, negotiators are reportedly working to set a hard cap for national aviation-related CO2 emissions by 2021.

Despite not yet being finalized, there is a strong chance for a successful agreement at the ICAO meeting.

A group of at least 55 nations, including major polluters such as China, the US, and primary EU states have all pledged to support an agreement, expected to be finalized on October 7.

Nonetheless a draft agreement text has been substantially watered down, and the 2021 level emissions cap will not be mandatory for signatory nations until 2027, an extension from the original date of 2020.

Major bodies representing aircraft operators as well have thrown their weight behind the deal, with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) describing it as a ‘historic agreement’.

“The aviation industry would have preferred a more ambitious timeline than is currently outlined in the draft text,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO in a statement,

“However, what is most important is that the substance of the negotiating text will allow for meaningful management of aviation’s carbon footprint. Airlines support it and urge governments to agree when they meet at ICAO.”

Air travel is currently a major contributor to CO2 pollution in the Earth’s atmosphere, and the industry will need to play a significant role in the fight against global warming.

Unlike road transport however, low-emissions air vehicles are still not technically viable meaning that pollution reductions will initially have to come from a mixture of efficient design choices and carbon offsets.

Further into the future however, more radical designs may allow for battery electric or fuel-cell based aircraft.