The global aviation sector produces as much emissions as the world's seventh most polluting country

Aviation CO2 limits are key for meeting Paris targets

The aviation community has to enforce legally binding limits for airliners to reduce their carbon footprint if climate change targets set in Paris are to be achieved, a non-governmental organisation has warned, highlighting that the sector will see a triple increase in CO2 emissions if insufficient action is taken.

On Monday, the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) said the global aviation sector must be subject to an enforceable deal on emission reductions, as its combined emissions are almost on-par with the world’s seventh most polluting country and projections show that the amount of aviation-related emissions will triple by 2050.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement negotiated in December last year by UN member states, which aims to prevent average global temperatures from rising beyond 2 °C, didn’t include aviation, leaving the matter in the hands of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

"Now, countries need to fulfil their Paris promises by ensuring that the aviation industry does its fair share," Brad Schallert, a senior program officer at the World Wildlife Fund, said in the statement on behalf of ICSA.

The International Civil Aviation Organization has until October to finalise a deal that would cap and cut the carbon pollution of all international flights. The market-based plan must win the support of the International Civil Aviation Organization's 190 member countries at its Montreal assembly, or risk the EU breaking off talks and imposing its own emissions trading plan on international airlines.

ICSA, established in 1998 by a group of national and international environmental non-governmental organisations as official observers at ICAO, said any deal must have clear compliance requirements that are enforceable and include accurate flight-by-flight emissions monitoring.

The coalition also said a deal should be subject to review to help the aviation industry meet its more ambitious goal of cutting carbon emissions by 50 per cent in 2050 from 2005 levels.

Earlier this year, a group of researchers from the University of Reading described how effects of the emissions-triggered climate change will in turn cause an increase in aviation-related emissions, as airliners will struggle against the strengthening jet stream.

Ventures are already underway to enable cutting or at least reducing aviation’s dependency on fossil fuels in future. The pioneering Solar Impulse project, a proof of concept airplane powered solely by the energy of sun, is set to complete its round the world trip later this year.

Airbus is developing its all-electric plane E-Fan, which successfully crossed the English Channel in July last year. However, all these technologies are decades away from being able to support large long-haul planes responsible for the emissions growth.

Despite improvements in engine efficiency and air-traffic management systems that prevent aircraft from spending extra time in the air, aviation emissions continue to grow. The main driver is the growing demand for air transportation.

The projected triple increase in carbon emissions from aviation by 2050 already factors in expected technology improvements.

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