• ITVI.USA
    15,868.670
    8.820
    0.1%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.774
    0.001
    0%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.470
    0.010
    0%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,873.680
    8.980
    0.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.960
    -0.660
    -18.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.100
    -0.250
    -10.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.610
    0.250
    18.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.340
    -0.130
    -3.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.860
    -0.220
    -5.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.520
    0.380
    12.1%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    -2.000
    -1.6%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,868.670
    8.820
    0.1%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.774
    0.001
    0%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.470
    0.010
    0%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,873.680
    8.980
    0.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.960
    -0.660
    -18.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.100
    -0.250
    -10.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.610
    0.250
    18.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.340
    -0.130
    -3.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.860
    -0.220
    -5.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.520
    0.380
    12.1%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    -2.000
    -1.6%
American Shipper

Air Transport: Green airlines

   During its most recent assembly, the 191 member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization passed an agreement on a global market-based measure to offset carbon emissions worldwide, putting a bow on a quest for airline emissions trading that has been years—if not decades—in the making.
   ICAO said the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is “designed to complement the basket of mitigation measures the air transport community is already pursuing to reduce CO2 emissions from international aviation.”
   The scheme, which works to keep airline carbon emissions at 2020 levels, will not be implemented immediately. After a two-year pilot phase starting in 2021, the voluntary first phase will run for two years until an eight-year on-boarding in 2025 that would include participation from all ICAO member states that signed on to the deal. The organization also included exemptions in CORSIA for undeveloped countries and states that don’t have a lot of airline activity, but these countries are able to participate if they choose to adhere to the guidelines.
   ICAO Council President Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said the organization secured commitments from states representing 83 percent of international flight operations, which is significant. He referred to the deal as the “Paris moment” for aviation, referencing the Paris Climate Agreement, which deals with capping worldwide greenhouse gas emissions across major industries, but did not include transportation.
   “It has taken a great deal of effort and understanding to reach this stage, and I want to applaud the spirit of consensus and compromise demonstrated by our member states, industry and civil society,” said Aliu.
   According to the Nature Conservancy, airlines account for 2 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. “That is poised to triple in the coming decades, so capping and reducing those emissions is critical to achieving the Paris goal of limiting warming to well below 2 degrees,” the agency said in a statement.
   Airline emissions have been front and center in the industry for years, well before the European Union in 2013 tried to implement its emissions trading system on airlines flying into and out of the EU. Lawmakers eventually enacted “stop-the-clock” legislation until the end of the year, allowing the ETS to only apply to flights within the EU until 2017. 
   It’s not yet clear if the ICAO deal makes the EU ETS superfluous. Reuters has reported that European officials don’t think the ICAO members were ambitious enough in their quest to stamp out carbon emission from the skies. They argue that while the ICAO deal only caps emissions at 2020 levels, their system eliminates carbon from the skies.
   And CORSIA does not actually require that airlines reduce their carbon emissions. Instead, companies will “offset” any increases in emissions through a system of credit buybacks in environmentally friendly projects. With that in mind, European airlines will continue to be regulated under the EU ETS even after ICAO’s market measure is in effect, European lawmakers have said.
   “Of course this ICAO deal is not enough to really decarbonize aviation,” EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc told the news agency, adding that “without this deal, there is no other progress.”
   U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the ICAO deal an “unprecedented” step that puts aviation on a path to “sustainable, carbon-neutral growth.” In a statement, he pointed out that the United States and ICAO have been working for more than a decade to achieve a deal to limit carbon emissions. While aviation is a significant emitter of greenhouse gases, and the ICAO deal has a significant impact on the industry, Kerry said the agreement will also help create momentum for emissions movements in other industries.
   “Aviation is only one of many areas where we are taking concrete and meaningful action to address global climate change this year,” he said. “All of these efforts are critical to protecting and preserving our planet for future generations.”
   In a statement, the Environmental Defense Fund noted that the early support of large countries—Japan and Korea in the Asia-Pacific, Qatar in the Middle East, and Mexico and Guatemala in Latin America—is critical to making the deal work.
   Airlines for America, an industry trade group representing domestic airlines, celebrated the deal, noting that implementing a carbon-offset system is important for the future of aviation.
   “Having a single, globally agreed market-based measure for international aviation ensures its role as a complement to our considerable technology, sustainable alternative aviation fuels, operations and infrastructure initiatives, sending a clear message that airlines will remain a green engine of economic growth into the future,” said Nancy Young, the group’s vice president of environmental affairs.
   Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, said “the historic significance of this agreement cannot be overstated.” He noted, however, that the climate deal itself won’t solve the problem.
   “Airlines will continue to invest in new technology—particularly new aircraft and sustainable alternative fuels—to improve their environmental performance,” he stated. “And we will continue to ask governments to do their part with investments to modernize air traffic management and with supportive polices to help commercialize sustainable alternative fuels for aviation.”
   While it is important to curb greenhouse gas emissions from airlines, there must thorough study of the impact on shippers and other supply chain insiders that regularly use air cargo for transportation. The cost of going green has long since become the cost of doing business, but putting costs above board as much as possible can help create reasonable expectations and hopefully prevent surprises down the road.

  Jon Ross, a former American Shipper editor, writes about air transport and freight issues. He can be reached by email at jonhross@gmail.com.

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