Airlines can meet climate goals without cutting ethical corners says WWF

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WWF is calling on airlines to commit to high quality carbon credits and sustainable alternative fuels in order to meet their climate targets. New research, commissioned by WWF-UK, shows that there is no need for airlines to use any measures with poor performance on emissions or risks to sustainable development.

The 2015 Paris Agreement did not explicitly mention aviation, but emissions in this sector are growing fast and must be reduced to keep global warming “well below 2°C”. This autumn the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will decide in on key features of a global market-based measure (MBM) to cap CO2 emissions from international flights at 2020 levels. One key issue in ICAO is the sustainability of the measures to be credited under the scheme, which is why WWF-UK commissioned the Stockholm Environment Institute to look into supply and sustainability of carbon credits and alternative fuels for aviation.

The analysis found that there could be enough sustainable biofuel and high quality credits to satisfy up to 73% of ICAO’s higher demand forecast for emissions reductions (4.5 Gt CO2e) or 100% of its lower demand forecast (3.3 Gt CO2e). This includes 0.1-0.3 Gt of reductions from sustainable biofuels, and up to 3.0 Gt from high quality carbon credits that support sustainable development. Any shortfall in emissions reductions could be met either through greater action on efficiency, or from carbon project types where certification is essential to ensure that the promised emissions reductions are achieved, and/or any sustainable development risks are avoided.

WWF is calling for ICAO to send a clear signal in its Assembly Resolution that the MBM will only recognise carbon credits and alternative fuels that achieve real emissions reductions and promote sustainable development, and to finalise detailed sustainability rules as soon as possible.

“As the world unites to fight climate change, the aviation industry has a responsibility to contribute its fair share of the effort,” said WWF-UK CEO David Nussbaum. “To future-proof themselves and safeguard their brand reputation, airlines should commit to using only high-quality carbon credits and sustainable alternative fuels, that avoid damaging side effects on emissions or sustainable development.

“ICAO must make it clear that carbon projects in the fossil fuel sector and conventional crop-based biofuels are not the answer, and should finalise binding sustainability criteria for both credits and fuels as soon as possible after the 2016 Assembly.”

Travindy is an independent website featuring news and opinion on all issues to do with tourism and sustainability. Written primarily for an industry audience, our aim is to support the transformation of the sector into one that is regenerative, restorative and fully inclusive.

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