Nobel Prize Winners Can Fix Aviation Emissions

Nobel Prize Winners Can Fix Aviation Emissions

The aviation industry is growing in greenhouse gas emissions. Other industries have lower emissions or better control. However, airline emissions continue to rise. What are the chances of laws regulating airlines carbon footprint? Are airlines legally obligate to use biofuels?

These questions a result of what known as the aviation emission problem. These questions have no answers and will not be answer soon.

The Emissions Problem

According to the IPCC, aviation’s contribution to total emission is between 2% to 8%. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, there will be significant additional emissions growth. We expect a 63-83% increase in 2020 compared to a 2006 baseline and a 290-6677% increase by 2050. This does not include biofuels.

Manchester Metropolitan University published research last month that found that total aviation emissions were 630 megatonnes of CO2 in 2006. Depending on growth and mitigation efforts, the 2050 total emissions will be between 1,000 and 3,100 megatonnes.

Research published in Nature Climate Change last week shows that climate change can also affect aviation. Clear-air turbulence caused by atmospheric jet streams and human-induced climate changes could make trans-Atlantic flights bumpy.

Ground Controls To Reduce Aviation’s Carbon Footprint

According to the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries such as Australia shall pursue limitation of greenhouse gas emissions from aviation through the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The International Civil Aviation Organization is the UN agency that oversees international aviation. In other words, the ICAO is responsible for aviation emissions, not Kyoto. They are therefore exclude from the primary global climate change legal instrument.

The European Union (EU), recognizing that aviation has not been include in Kyoto and the failure of the ICAO to address the problem of aviation emissions, has taken steps.

Directive 2008/101/EC, the EU emissions trading scheme requires that all flights within the EU surrender emission allowances equal to the total amount of emissions from the flight. This applies to any flight landing at or taking off from any EU airport. The airlines received most of the emission allowances (85%), free of charge.

The strategy was set to go into effect on January 1, 2012. International airlines led by the US and China opposed inclusion of aviation into the EU emissions trading system. They tried to challenge its legality at the European Court of Justice, but were unsuccessful.

Mostly due to the strong opposition, the EU announced last November that it would stop international aviation from being included in the trading system until late in the year.

House Of Representatives Approved Legislation Emissions

The US House of Representatives approved legislation that President Obama signed one day after the EU announced its intention to prohibit any US-based aircraft operator from ever taking part in the EU’s trading program.

The EU stated that it would seek out ICAO for help in addressing the problem. The General Assembly of ICAO will be held in September-October, which is a few months from now. Since 1997, they have been trying to solve the problem of aviation emissions.

A group of top economists, including eight Nobel Prize winner, wrote to President Obama last month urging him support a price for aviation. These were their words:

The aviation sector can be charged carbon to encourage investment and change that will reduce future greenhouse gas emissions. It is possible to slow climate change at a reasonable cost by using the market. The ICAO Assembly can price carbon in the aviation sector.

If ICAO fails adequately to address the emission problem which it most likely will fail to do given its complete failure to address international aviation’s emissions problem to date then the EU trading system legislation would again apply to international aviation. However, both the US and China have banned their airlines from joining. The idea of regulating the international carbon footprint for airlines is not feasible, at least not in the near future.