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World’s Largest Airlines Yet To Work on Their “Emissions Intensity” Goals

The airline industry more broadly has set goals that include capping aviation's net emissions at 2020 levels, and halving net emissions by 2050 from 2005 levels, Dietz said.

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ethiopia, plane crash
The plane was new. The weather was clear. Yet something was wrong, and the pilots tried to return to the airport. They never made it. Pixabay

Some of the world’s largest airlines have yet to set long-term targets to reduce their climate-changing emissions, climate and economic researchers warned Tuesday.

Top publicly listed airlines have cut their “emissions intensity” — how much pollution they produce for the same amount of activity — significantly in recent years, said researchers from the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute.

But they are not making clear plans for the much larger emissions reductions needed to meet internationally agreed climate goals, the researchers said.

Beyond 2020 and particularly in the long-term “the targets these airlines have set to reduce their emissions are not clearly consistent with the Paris Agreement goals,” said Simon Dietz, co-author of a study released Tuesday.

The Paris goals, agreed by world governments in 2015, call for keeping global temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and ideally to 1.5C above pre-industrial times.

The study, which looked at 20 of the world’s largest publicly listed airlines, noted that air travel currently accounts for about 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, and 12 percent of transport-related emissions.

Airlines
The airline between 2016 and 2020 also is replacing 30 percent of its main fleet with aircraft 15 to 25 percent more fuel-efficient, Simmons said, and its fleet has seen a 9 percent increase in fuel efficiency since 2009. VOA

Cutting those emissions — and emissions from shipping — is particularly challenging because their mobile nature makes it harder for companies to use clean energy sources such as solar or wind power.

Alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, may offer long-term solutions but are still being developed.

The study, backed by investor groups, analyzed the public disclosures of airlines as a way of assessing their performance on combatting climate change, Dietz said.

The airlines were evaluated based on their carbon management practices and emissions performance. Airlines with lower emissions often had younger fleets, more passengers per flight and a focus on longer versus shorter flights, Dietz said.

Helen Vines Fiestas, the deputy global head of sustainability at BNP Paribas Asset Management, said the report raises key questions about what the aviation industry is prepared to do to contribute to climate change action in the long run.

Airlines, she said, should join forces and look at airline-related emissions as a joint problem, “asking how are we going to go about it” in making emissions reductions, she said.

But “this is just not what we are seeing, and this is what really worries us,” she said.

Carbon offsets

Many airlines have adopted industry targets to reduce net emissions, usually through “carbon offsetting,” which can include things like paying to plant carbon-absorbing forests or build clean energy systems elsewhere to compensate for airline emissions, Dietz said.

FILE - Delta Air Lines planes are parked at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, in Washington, Aug. 8, 2016.
Delta Air Lines planes are parked at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, in Washington, Aug. 8, 2016. VOA

Delta Airlines, for instance — rated in the study as one of the most active airlines on addressing climate issues — has committed to capping carbon emissions at 2012 levels, in part by purchasing offsets, according to Catherine Simmons, a spokeswoman for Delta.

Its website lets customers estimate their emissions and contribute to a range of carbon offset programs to compensate for them.

The airline between 2016 and 2020 also is replacing 30 percent of its main fleet with aircraft 15 to 25 percent more fuel-efficient, Simmons said, and its fleet has seen a 9 percent increase in fuel efficiency since 2009.

The airline industry more broadly has set goals that include capping aviation’s net emissions at 2020 levels, and halving net emissions by 2050 from 2005 levels, Dietz said.

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But that approach is not necessarily the most effective, he said, because reducing “net emissions” can be done through offsets rather than actual aviation emissions reductions.

“If you look at modeling by organizations like the International Energy Agency, it clearly shows that in the long run, the airline sector needs to reduce its own emissions,” he said. “We’re calling on airlines to make commitments that clearly show what they are going to achieve.” (VOA)

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U.S. Refuses Mention Of Climate Change, Arctic Council Meeting Stands Fail

The meeting was supposed to come up with a two-year agenda to balance the challenges of climate change with sustainable development.

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Climate
The foreign ministers pose for a picture during the Arctic Council summit in Rovaniemi on May 7. RFERL

The participants at the Arctic Council meeting in Finland’s far northern town of Rovaniemi have failed to issue a final declaration reportedly due to a U.S. refusal to mention climate change.

At the start of the council’s 11th ministerial meeting, Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini said the final joint declaration was “off the table” and would be replaced by ministerial statements. He provided no explanation.

According to participants, member states were unable to reach an agreement, with the United States alone refusing to mention climate change in the final text.

China
Pompeo also criticized China, which holds observer status, and Russia, slamming their “aggressive behavior” in the Arctic. VOA

Temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast as in the rest of the world, prompting the accelerated melting of the polar cap and opening huge untapped energy and mineral resources to commercial exploitation.

This is the first time the Arctic Council, which has been holding ministerial meetings every two years since 1996, failed to present a final declaration.

The meeting was supposed to come up with a two-year agenda to balance the challenges of climate change with sustainable development.

“The hang-up here right now is America making it hard to make a final agreement,” Sally Swetzof of the Aleut International Association, one of six organizations representing the Arctic’s indigenous peoples, told the media.

climate change
According to participants, member states were unable to reach an agreement, with the United States alone refusing to mention climate change in the final text. Pixabay

The Arctic Council consists of the United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

In a speech in Rovaniemi on the eve of the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Donald Trump’s administration “shares your deep commitment to environmental stewardship” in the Arctic. But he said collective goals were not always the answer.

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“They are rendered meaningless and even counterproductive as soon as one nation fails to comply,” he said.

Pompeo also criticized China, which holds observer status, and Russia, slamming their “aggressive behavior” in the Arctic. (RFERL)