Aviation faces challenge to reduce pollution

Aviation represents around two percent of emissions of global carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the main gases responsible for rising temperatures. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 April 2019

Aviation faces challenge to reduce pollution

  • A total of 4.3 billion people flew in 2018, a 6.1 percent increase over the previous year
  • The sector is implementing an emissions trading scheme that aims to stabilize the situation at 2019-2020 levels

PARIS: Aviation has boomed in the past decades, with low-cost airlines helping make travel affordable to more people, but the industry faces a major challenge to play its part in cutting emissions responsible for global warming.
Aviation represents around two percent of emissions of global carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the main gases responsible for rising temperatures, according to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
That is roughly equivalent to the overall emissions of Germany, according to consulting firm Sia Partners.
A total of 4.3 billion people flew in 2018, a 6.1 percent increase over the previous year. Air traffic is expected to double within the next 15 to 20 years.
Transport accounts for a quarter of the emission of climate-changing greenhouse gases in Europe, according to the European Environment Agency.
Road transport makes up the overwhelming majority of emissions in the sector at 70 percent of the total. Aviation and maritime transport account for most of the rest.
But on a measure of CO2 emitted each kilometer traveled by a passenger, air travel ranks top at 285 grams per passenger kilometer. Road transportation follows at 158 and rail travel at 14 grams per passenger kilometer, according to figures published by the European Environment Agency.
“For long-haul it’s complicated,” acknowledges Philippe Berland, a transportation expert at Sia-Partner.
“Air travel is also closely tied with the development of economic activity. It isn’t clear there would be a shift to other means of transport because air travel also brings rapidity in traveling from point A to B,” he said.
But for short distances a switch is more viable, so long as train travel is organized in an efficient manner, said Berland.
The sector is implementing an emissions trading scheme that aims to stabilize the situation at 2019-2020 levels.
Called the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation and run by the ICAO, the at first voluntary scheme will have the industry buy pollution credits for emissions above the baseline from other sectors that have reduced their production of greenhouse gases.
The ICAO has put the emphasis on improving the performance of aircraft.
Both Airbus and Boeing have in recent years rolled out new planes that offer double-digit gains in fuel savings from those they replace thanks to updated engines, use of lighter materials and aerodynamic modifications. These new planes are 80 percent more efficient than the first commercial airliners introduced in the 1960s, according to an ICAO expert.
The ICAO also believes gains can be made by better management of air traffic to reduce use of fuel and by developing sustainable biofuels.
Several airlines have begun testing biofuels. But their production costs remain high and their widespread adoption would increase competition for arable land.
In the longer term, the industry is looking toward technological developments such as electric engines.
While industry experts don’t expect electric engines to be rolled out commercially for another two decades, a new generation of plane designs that offer more fuel savings is likely to appear within five or ten years.


Davos 2020: Ministers, top executives in Saudi delegation to WEF

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, center, his wife Hilde, left, and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen are seated during the opening session of the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. (AP)
Updated 12 min 53 sec ago

Davos 2020: Ministers, top executives in Saudi delegation to WEF

  • A large KSA contingent comprising 55 senior figures will be attending the WEF in Davos
  • Around 3,000 leaders from business, public policy, culture and technology will be in attendance

DAVOS: Some 3,000 leaders from the worlds of business, public policy, culture and technology are due to arrive in the Alpine town of Davos for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which begins on Tuesday.

The meeting this year — under the theme “stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world” — is the 50th time the annual meeting has been held in the Swiss resort, but it comes at a time of growing global tensions over climate change and geopolitical confrontation.

Last week, the WEF published its annual global risk report, one of the gloomiest ever, with global experts concerned about accelerating environmental damage and potential political flashpoints in several parts of the world.

Saudi Arabia is sending a top-level delegation to the meeting, headed by Dr. Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, Minister of State and Member of the Cabinet, with some 55 senior figures.

They include ministers and senior executives from industry, finance and the economy, in addition to many other Saudi participants attending for bilateral meetings and support roles, as well as the event’s legendary networking.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman will attend his first WEF annual meeting since he was named energy minister last year. Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman will also attend.

Amin Nasser, CEO of Saudi Aramco, will attend for the first time as head of a publicly listed company following the oil giant’s successful initial public offering (IPO) last year.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and the WEF have grown stronger as the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 strategy has accelerated.

Later this year, Riyadh will play host to a meeting of the WEF under the banner of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the brainchild of Klaus Schwab, WEF founder and executive chairman.

“On the eve of its G20 presidency, we welcome the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia … to shape those technologies in a way that serves society,” Schwab said.

In contrast with the strong participation from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, notably the UAE, Iran has pulled out of the meeting altogether because of the heightened political tensions in the region following the killing of the country’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, in a US strike earlier this month.

President Donald Trump is leading a big American delegation to the event, the second time he has attended Davos since moving into the White House, having missed last year. He is due to deliver a keynote address on the opening day of the meeting.

Climate change and its consequences look certain to be a big topic in snowy Davos, where the temperature rarely rises above freezing.

Greta Thunberg, the young environmental campaigner, is also taking part in sessions, including one on “averting a climate apocalypse.”

She has hiked over the Alps to get to Davos, having pledged not to use environmentally damaging public transport.

Davos 2020 is split across seven key themes: Healthy futures, how to save the planet, better business, beyond geopolitics, technology for good, fairer economies, and society and the future of work.

On climate change, the WEF said: “The Earth is getting hotter, the ice is melting, the oceans are rising, and they’re filling up with plastic. We’re losing species, building up greenhouse gases, and running out of time. It’s easy to feel downhearted.”

On rising geopolitical tensions, it added: “We need to move from geopolitics and international competition to a default of consummate global collaboration. Nations are going to have to change.”

In an effort to change the event’s image as a showy gathering of the global elite, often traveling in helicopters and limousines to the Alpine resort, the WEF has offered to pay half of the first-class rail fare from anywhere in the world to Davos.