Mon 4 June 2018 – Carbon emissions from airlines are forecast by IATA to grow to 897 million tonnes (Mt) in 2018 as a result of an historically high fuel consumption of 94 billion US gallons. This is an upward forecast from the industry association in December 2017 when it estimated carbon missions would reach 874 Mt from a lower fuel consumption. Its new forecast would represent a 4.4% increase on 2017 emissions of 859 Mt. Against a backdrop of increasing oil prices, IATA forecasts the airline industry will spend $188 billion on its fuel in 2018, or around 24.2% of its overall expenses, up from 21.4% in 2017. Speaking at the opening of its annual general meeting in Sydney, IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac urged more governments to join the ICAO CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme from the start in 2020 as well as support the implementation of sustainable aviation fuels.
Sustainability is central to our future, de Juniac said in his industry report. “From 1 January 2019 – less than seven months from now – all airlines must report fuel consumption in preparation for the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA,” he told airline leaders. “This scheme will keep our promise to cap net emissions, achieving carbon neutral growth from 2020.
“But the commitment to sustainability must be shared by governments. The 73 governments already signed on to CORSIA cover 88% of aviation. We want more to join – ideally 100% coverage. It’s not just about signing up. Under the leadership of ICAO, governments agreed to CORSIA as a universal measure to address aviation’s carbon footprint. They must put all their efforts into honouring that commitment with a successful implementation.
“We also want governments to step up on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). SAFs have a critical role in our aim to cut emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2050. But we need more governments to join the US and Europe in establishing policy frameworks to reduce cost and incentivise production.”
According to IATA statistics, the global CO2 level in 2005 was 650 Mt so the industry is already emitting well over half a billion tonnes per year more than its 2050 50% reduction target. Emissions in 2017 were 5.9% higher than in 2016 and if the anticipated 4.4% year-on-year increase in 2018 was to be maintained, the industry could be responsible for not far short of one billion tonnes of global CO2 by the start of CORSIA in 2020. It should be noted that CORSIA only covers emissions from international flights, which according to ICAO’s environment committee, CAEP, were around 65% of the global total in 2010 and the share is expected to grow to nearly 70% by 2050 (ICAO Environmental Report 2016, p. 16).
The rise in fuel consumption is driven by a continued strong growth in passenger numbers and a rise in new destinations added by airlines. A 7.0% increase in Revenue Passenger Km (RPKs) is expected in 2018 – although down from 8.1% in 2017 – with stronger economic growth pushing traffic ahead of capacity growth, says IATA in its 2018 Mid-year economic performance report.
“We expect 1% of world GDP to be spent on air transport in 2018, totalling $871 billion,” says the report. “RPKs, which have been growing well above trend helped by the economic upturn, are forecast to remain strong in 2018 as stronger economic growth partly offsets the drag from the rise in oil prices. Falling travel costs have been adding several percentage points to RPK growth over the past several years.”
Airlines and their customers are forecast by IATA to generate $133 billion in tax revenues next year. In his report, de Juniac criticised Sweden, the Netherlands “and others who are inventing new environment taxes and charges”, and India for taxing international travel in contravention of ICAO resolutions.
As a result of improved balance sheets and substantial investment, IATA says commercial airlines are expected to take delivery of over 1,900 new aircraft this year, with the global fleet now at almost 30,000 aircraft.
“Sustained high fuel costs had also made it economic to retire older aircraft at a higher rate, but that effect has weakened,” points out the report. “Around half of this year’s deliveries will replace existing fleet, making a significant contribution to increasing fleet fuel efficiency.”
Fuel efficiency in terms of Available Tonne Kilometres (ATKs) are expected to improve 1.5% in 2018 as new aircraft deliveries grow and fuel prices rise sharply. IATA says the annual average per RTK fuel efficiency from 2009-2014 stands at 2.4% compared to the 1.5% industry target, and the continued fuel efficiency gains had partially decoupled CO2 emissions from expanding air transport services. The 2018 fuel efficiency gain would save over 14 million tonnes of CO2 and $2.9 billion in fuel costs, it added.
Fuel efficiency and the price of jet fuel (source: IATA):
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