Drive American

Published on Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Airline polluters should pay - now


CORSIA envisages 2035 as the date that airlines are compelled to take responsibility for their emissions -but that is too late, says Valere Tjolle.

In 1947 after the war global economic activity needed to be kick-started hence the Chicago Convention was agreed by the UN which gave airlines everything they needed to prosper. They were to pay no tax on fuel or spare parts and everything was done to help them to expand

Success! They expanded beyond anyone's dreams. Now, 73 years later they are still expanding and have fostered an industry which supports 10.1 million jobs directly - making planes, in airports, and operating airlines. The International Air Transport Association claims that airlines create $2.7 trillion in global economic activity.

And the future is enormous - massive expansion is still forecast for the years to come as international travel increases apace.

However, in the seeds of their success there is also, now, danger. Obviously, air travel pollutes. Some 80% of tourism-related emissions come from air travel and, as international travel grows, this gets worse year by year.

Even though the airlines still claim the benefits of the Chicago Convention of 1947, they have used this authority to endorse their claim to fly free of carbon emission restraints. And they have powerful friends to make their case.

So, when the European Union sought to include intercontinental flights via Europe in their EUETS cap and trade system in 2012 (which has so far contributed to reducing the carbon footprint of the European aviation sector by more than 17 million tonnes per year), world airlines fought their case in court. Having lost the case, the airlines brought in their friends including the plane-makers like Boeing and the US government. They fought a full-on no-holds-barred battle. The result? It was agreed that a global airline emissions plan was to be created by the ICAO (the organisation set up by the Chicago Convention). The plan was to be in operation by 2016.

The result is a plan called CORSIA which, to say the least, does not treat the situation as a climate emergency - here are its demerits:

  • CORSIA is voluntary - not all airlines need to join until 2035 by which time emissions will at least be doubled.
  • CORSIA only covers carbon emissions rather than the broader greenhouse gas emissions
  • If the airlines break their emissions caps eventually they'll have to invest in forests through carbon offsets to mitigate their emissions. Given current forecasts of growth the world will become one enormous forest - until the trees die when all that stored carbon will be released.

The generally accepted tenet is "The polluter pays"

Airlines are polluting our shared atmosphere now. They need to pay immediately, not 15 years from now when the bill for the human race will be unpayable.

Whatever their benefit to the global economy as a result of expensive powerful lobbying they have kept their perks far too long and they should not add to them an emissions free ride.

Some airlines are coming up to the mark now - including the UK's easyjet and USA's Jet Blue which are offsetting all their emissions now. OK offsetting is not perfect, but at least it is now, not in 2035.

Maybe more airlines will be shamed into following their lead.

Tourism related emissions are becoming a bigger and bigger issue. The Sustainable Tourism Report 2020 deals in depth with this subject. A limited number of review copies may be subscribed now at a 50% discount.

There will be a masterclass to discuss this and other sustainable tourism matters in Bath on February 7. To register for a place email [email protected]



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  • what garbage

    CARS/TRUCKS/BUS pollute 100 times more than aircraft.

    By Michael Anderson, Thursday, January 9, 2020

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