Leading airlines failing to devise long-term emission plans

None of the world’s 20 largest listed airlines have long-term plans to specifically cut their flight emissions after 2025, a landmark study of corporate disclosures has found.


This is despite the aviation industry accounting for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 12% of transport-related CO2, with the sector’s contribution to climate change said to be “fast-growing”.

The study also found that many airlines are using carbon offsetting to reduce net emissions, but that it remains “unclear” how they intend to cut CO2 from their own flights.

The research comes from the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) at the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute, and was backed by investors with over $13trn (£9.9trn) in assets.

TPI co-chair, Faith Ward, said: “Investors have a clear message to the aviation sector: When it comes to carbon performance they must be in it for the long haul. 

“That means stretching emissions reduction targets to 2030 and beyond – offsetting is no substitute for a clear strategy to reduce emissions, and the International Energy Agency’s budget for air transport excludes offsets.”

After using a large set of key indicators, the researchers found that Delta, United, Lufthansa and the ANA Group are the airlines leading the way on carbon management.

However, the industry as a whole is underperforming the automotive and electricity sectors, while the ANA Group, Japan Airlines, Korean and Singapore Airlines currently have the highest emissions intensity.

EasyJet is the only airline with a CO2 emissions intensity of flights below the 2˚C benchmarks after 2020, although performance disclosures by Wizz Air have yet to be verified.

Helena Viñes Fiestas, deputy global head of sustainability at BNP Paribas Asset Management, which was one of the investors backing the research, highlighted the importance of thorough disclosures.

“The aviation industry clearly has a range of actions it can take to respond to climate change – improved energy efficiency, bio fuels, and offsetting amongst others,” she continued.

“As investors, we need clarity about the contribution each of these will make – and, critically, how much they will cost – if the sector is to make its contribution to the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

Image credit | iStock

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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