Griffith Institute for Tourism is presenting on airline initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and climate impact at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 25, in Spain.

The aviation research conducted by Professor Susanne Becken and PhD candidate Mr Paresh Pant, will be presented by Mr Lucas Bobes, Amadeus Sustainability Manager, at the 25th session of the Conference of Parties (COP) – that convenes from December 2-13 in Madrid.

Prof. Susanne Becken and Mr Lucas Bobes

The conference will provide insights into the challenges and opportunities for global climate change adaptations and carbon-reduction initiatives across all sectors and resources, with the aim to help boost acceleration actions.

The paper ‘Airline Initiatives to reduce Climate Impact’ presents macro trends in the aviation industry around carbon emissions, followed by a more detailed analysis of initiatives reported by leading airlines. It examines the largest 58 airlines in the world that make up 70% of total available seat kilometres in global aviation.

“Whilst airlines currently only represent 2-4% of emissions, their share will increase to well over 20% in 2050 should aviation continue on its current growth path – which is concerning for reduction targets,” said Professor Becken.

“Demand for air travel continues to be strong, however, there are signs that the sentiment towards flying is changing. As a result, many airlines are aware of these challenges and investing substantially into carbon reduction programs.”

“Ethical questions are being raised concerning air travel, including around equality, and an increasing number of organisations are setting carbon reduction targets for employee air travel.”

“At the same time, governments are looking at taxing aircraft emissions as one way to meet national obligations and contribute to international reduction goals.”

Professor Becken explained, an analysis of airline reports shows that to date the industry fails to report carbon around an agreed set of measures, in particular, when benchmarking efficiency.

“Reverting to CO2 per available seat kilometre, as one common metric, highlights that most airlines were able to demonstrate improvements in carbon efficiency, but essentially all of them increased their absolute emissions between 2017 and 2018.”

“Only 35 out of the top 58 airlines provided information on emissions, highlighting the need for much-improved disclosure and reporting in the industry – and the collective improvement in efficiency of those 35 airlines was about 1% in 2018 compared to 2017.”

The research identifies that airline initiatives to save emissions fall into 22 different categories of action, that range from aircraft efficiency measures to improving flight operations. They include leadership and partnership initiatives, with some airlines reporting on-the-ground improvements, for example through electric vehicle fleets or improved efficiency in buildings and maintenance.

For participants attending the conference, the aviation impacts and initiatives presentation will be during an event hosted by the World Travel and Tourism Council: CLIMATE ACTION IN TRAVEL & TOURISM – COP 25 (draft programme), 3rd December, 2019, Torres del Paine, IFEMA, Madrid.

The key message for the aviation industry and leaders at the conference will be for the need to accelerate efforts of true decarbonisation in the sector, with more initiatives and better reporting of carbon efficiency to international standards, i.e. with EarthCheck’s GHG Accounting Tool.

“Governments will play some role in accelerating change, be it through policy incentives, taxes, or investment into research and innovation – and aviation leaders could also increase their efforts,” said Professor Becken.

The Conference of Parties (COP), is the decision-making body responsible for monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

COP has met annually since 1995 and it brings together the 197 nations and territories, that have signed the Framework Convention. A key objective at COP 25 is to complete several matters with respect to the full operationalisation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

The conference will include, CMP15, the fifteenth session of the COP serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, and the second session of the COP serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 2).

A Climate Action Hub will be webcast from the event that showcases, talk-shows, special launches and varied interactive activities, all of which focus on concrete climate actions.

To review the paper or for more information about airline initiatives that reduce emissions and climate impact, please contact Professor Susanne Becken or Mr Paresh Pant ([email protected]).

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