The International Air Transport Association’s Global Approach to Reducing Aviation Emissions

In 2007 at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting, the association concentrated their efforts and attention to build a zero emission commercial aircraft within the next 50 years. To achieve this bold goal the IATA adopted a four-pillar strategy which includes improved technology, effective operations, efficient infrastructure, and positive economic measures. Since that 2007 meeting aviation emissions fell from 671 million tonnes of CO2 in 2007 to 666 million tonnes of CO2 in 2008, which is predicted to further fall 6.5%.

At the latest IATA general annual meeting the association made a list of new ambitious goals revising their original plan. The newly adopted objectives, endorsed by both the IATA and the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), include a cap on aviation CO2 from 2020 (carbon-neutral growth), an average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5% per year from 2009 to 2020 and a reduction in CO2 emissions of 50% by 2050 relative to 2005 levels. To achieve these goals the IATA again is relying on their four-pillar strategy.

The first pillar is technology. Improvements in technology will most readily reduce aviation emissions, some of the technological advancements include: revolutionary new plane designs; new composite lightweight materials; radical new engine advances; and the development of biofuels. I will focus on the biofuel aspect for obvious reasons, the IATA write that sustainable biofuels have the potential to reduce aviation CO2 emissions up to 80% on a full carbon life-cycle basis. The focus is on second or new generation biofuels (from algae, jatropha, and camelina biomass). The biofuels do not require aircraft changes and can be blended in with existing jet fuel in increasing quantities as they become more available. At the current rate fuels comprised of a 6% mix of second generation biofuels by 2020 would reduce aviation CO2 emissions by an additional 5%. The IATA goal is to use 10% alternative fuels by 2017.

The second pillar intends to decrease aviation emissions via efficient aircraft operations. I previously posted how this could reduce emissions and according to IATA such aviation operation could reduce emissions by 3%. In 2008 alone practice of better operations saved 11 million tonnes of CO2.

On a similar note the third pillar focuses on improving air transport infrastructure. By 2020 better infrastructure (better flight route management) could reduce overall emissions by 4%.

Lastly, the fourth pillar deals with economic measures. In short, this pillar is concerned with the economic measures necessary to achieve the other three pillars.

The IATA statement of goals then continues discussing the pillars and elucidating the most effective methods to consolidate the industry into one solid effort. This consolidation is important because it will take global efforts to achieve such goals.

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