Air Transport Industry Lobbies for Sectoral Approach at COP 15

by | Dec 10, 2009

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cop15-iata-adA glossy four-page wrap of the International Herald Tribune greeted thousands of hotel guests in Copenhagen, on day three of COP 15. A full-page blue sky with a puffy cloud accompanies the headline, “We will cut our carbon emissions by 50% by 2050.”

One wondered, which country took out this ad (see image)? None at all.

It was the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

On the inside of the ad, the aviation group commits to three steps to reach the goal:

1. Investing in new fuel efficient aircraft and sustainable biofuels.

2. Shortening flying times with direct routes and re-designing complex airspace with continuous descent approach, versus drive and dive.

3. Adding funding for a global sectoral approach for aviation.

When IATA first adopted its 50 percent target in September, the group said that higher fares will come as a result of the higher cost of adopting newer, more sustainable and energy efficient airplanes and related technologies.

Although air travel accounts for only 1.6 percent of global carbon emissions, European regulators and media have been critical of air travel for its role in climate change. Airlines are expected to join emissions trading in the EU regulations within two years.

“We are the only global industry coming to Copenhagen with a strong track record and a commitment to cut our emissions in half by 2050. These goals clearly show that the aviation industry is even ahead of its regulators in its approach to climate change,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

The cement industry has successfully demonstrated a global industry-led sectoral approach to reaching emission reduction goals, compared to a country-by-country regulatory scheme.

However, odds are small for the aviation industry to get approval for a sectoral approach in the Copenhagen agreement. Negotiators say privately that getting agreements on emission targets, climate finance and deforestation are the first priority. There’s always the next round of climate talks in 2010, when the industry will fly thousands to Mexico City from around the world.

Kevin Tuerff, CEO of Green Canary Sustainability Consulting and President of EnviroMedia Social Marketing, is reporting for Environmental Leader from the UNFCCC in Copenhagen, Denmark. More updates available at

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