‘Costly’ aviation emission cut deal approved by UN

The United Nations’ Civil Aviation Organisation has approved an agreement to considerably curb emissions from aviation.

The global carbon-offsetting system, the first scheme of its kind, hopes to slow the growth of emissions from commercial flights. Voluntary from 2021 to 2026 and mandatory starting in 2027, it will require airlines to buy carbon credits from various environmental projects around the world to offset emissions growth.

Complying with the deal is expected to cost global airlines about 1.8 per cent of their revenues by 2035. However, some said that at the time when airlines’ margins globally are very slim, the extra cost could be a burden, especially for airlines in developing countries.

Russia and India have already said they will not participate in the voluntary phases.

On the other hand, China said it plans to join the voluntary phase, while Brazil, which had previously voiced concerns, expressed support for the deal, although it didn’t disclose whether it would join the voluntary phase.

Overall, 65 countries, who between them are responsible for 80 per cent of global aviation activity, committed to the voluntary phase. Such a high level of early commitment has surpassed expectations of some industry insiders.

“Even though it’s a cost and the industry doesn’t like additional costs, we believe it’s a manageable cost,” said Paul Steele, vice-president of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Governments from individual countries must still put regulations in place in line with the treaty.

ICAO estimates the deal will cost airlines between $1.5bn (£1.24bn) and $6.2bn (£5bn) in 2025, depending on future carbon prices.

The deal comes a day after the Paris climate change treaty entered into force, four years earlier than originally expected. Aviation, although responsible for about 2 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, was excluded from that treaty. A two per cent contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is larger than that of some countries.

Experts expect numbers of air passengers to double to 7 billion by 2034. Meeting the growing demand while keeping emissions in check will put extra pressure on airlines to achieve better fuel efficiency or find ways to offset the impact.

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