UN agreement aims to cap aviation CO2 emissions

The agreement is aimed at reducing the aviation industry's carbon footprint(Credit: Airbus/A. Doumenjou)

Advances in aviation may seem to have made the world a whole lot smaller, but they've also had a huge environmental impact. With this in mind, the International Civil Aviation Organisation and United Nations have agreed on a new global market-based measure, aimed at offsetting carbon emissions from air travel and mapping out a more efficient, sustainable future for air travel.

Necessary though it is, air travel is a dirty business. Even though modern planes are around 80 percent more efficient than they were in the 1960s, the Air Transport Action Group says flights around the world created 781 million tonnes (860 million US tons) of CO2 in 2015. According to the same figures, the global aviation industry is currently responsible for around two percent of all human-induced carbon emissions.

The global marked-based measure agreed upon by the ICAO and the UN aims to cut this impact. For every metric tonne of CO2 emitted, aircraft operators will have to invest in emissions credits to offset the impact, be it within the industry or through other environmental programs.

The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is aimed at capping emissions at 2020 levels, in spite of an expected 5 percent increase in the number of people using air travel and between 2.9 to 3.8 percent more jet fuel being consumed.

Implementation of CORSIA will start with a pilot program between 2021 and 2023, before the first phase runs from 2024 to 2026. The program is expected to be in full swing by 2027, although some exemptions have been granted to landlocked less developed nations, areas with low levels of air travel and landlocked countries.

Along with the 191 member states who voted to pass the new agreement, Boeing and Airbus have publicly thrown their support behind it.

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