photo: Ranier Ebert/Creative Commons
With the European Union's plan to include aviation in its emission trading scheme just two years away, there's some more movement on slowing the growing carbon footprint of the airline industry. At the annual meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a resolution passed which would see aviation emissions capped by 2020, with stronger energy efficiency targets through mid-century.A half-percent energy efficiency improvement goal, mean that the global aviation sector now aims for 2% greater fuel efficiency every year through 2050, with a CO2 standard for aircraft engines established by 2013. By 2020 emissions from civil aviation, currently about 3% of the world's total emissions but climbing, would be capped, with any growth thereafter being carbon-neutral.
Carbon Neutral Aviation Has Serious Challenges of Scale
How that carbon neutral growth will be achieved is a big unknown at this point, considering that one of the most promising aviation biofuel feedstocks, algae, is now estimated by many observers as being up to a decade away from widespread commercial viability, and at current fuel demand roughly 2.5% of the world's agricultural land would be needed just to keep global aviation aloft with biofuels.
Not to say it's impossible, but true carbon neutral aviation at current scale, let alone projected growth, is not necessarily possible--at least not quickly enough to avoid damaging climate change.
Agreement Clears Way For EU Emissions Trading to Begin
Technological issues aside, Reuters reports that the agreement clears the way for the EU's emission trading scheme to proceed:
"Crucially, ICAO has refrained from language which would make the application of the EU's ETS to their airlines dependent on the mutual agreement of other states," the Commission said, adding this had led to stalemate at the last ICAO assembly in 2007.
"This time, the EU agreed to engage constructively in dialogue with third countries during the implementation of its ETS, notably regarding how to deal with emissions from incoming flights from third countries," she continued.
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More on Aviation Carbon Emissions:
US Objects to Its Airlines Having to Pay For Their Pollution in EU Emission Trading Scheme
World's Airline Pledge to Cut Emissions 50% by 2050
Airlines To Be Included in EU Emission Trading Scheme From 2012