Qantas, Virgin Australia Back ICAO's Carbon Emissions Limit Agreement

12th Feb 2016

The importance of the global aviation industry today can hardly be disputed. However, with good things often come the bad and this industry is also responsible for creating greenhouse gas pollution.

Fortunately, some of its members, such as Australian airlines Qantas and Virgin Australia, have now backed an international agreement to set binding limits to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

According to the new standards, the aviation industry will reduce its fuel consumption in new aircraft by 4 per cent as of 2028, compared to 2015.

The landmark agreement, which came after over six years of negotiations, was announced this week by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization). Furthermore, the deal is also a product of other international agreements signed to address carbon dioxide-caused climate change.

The new standards will have to be formally implemented by the civil aviation council of all 36 member states no later than June. The deal should then be endorsed by the assembly in October.

ICAO Council President Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said:

"The goal of this process is ultimately to ensure that when the next generation of aircraft types enter service, there will be guaranteed reductions in international CO2 emissions."

The standard is focusing more on larger planes, as these add much more to the greenhouse gas pollution than smaller ones. According to some projections, planes that are over 60 tonnes in weight account for almost 90 per cent of international aviation gas pollution.

According to ICAO, the CO2 output from the aviation industry could go even higher. Currently, commercial aviation industry is responsible for 2 per cent of the carbon dioxide emitted in the air by human activities, but ICAO says that this percentage could grow to 3 or even 4 per cent in the next 15 years as airlines add more aircraft to their operations.

With the new standards in place, carbon emissions should be dropped by over 650 million tonnes between 2020 and 2040. That's like removing 140 million cars from the roads.

Speaking about the agreement and Qantas' participation in it, a spokesman for this airline said:

"It's great to see ICAO taking the lead on cutting emissions and most airlines will be applauding the new proposal. The Qantas Group has been a big investor in new aircraft because it gives us a competitive advantage, both in terms of fuel-efficiency and customer service."

The new standards do not apply to Qantas' or Virgin Australia's current fleets.