Only one of the aviation industry’s 50 climate goals has been met, study finds | Airline emissions

The international aviation industry has failed to meet all but one of its 50 climate targets in the past two decades, according to environmental campaigners.

A report commissioned by climate charity Possible assessed every target set by the industry since 2000 and found nearly all of them had been missed, revised or quietly ignored. The charity says the results undermine a UK government plan to let airlines reduce emissions through self-regulation.

Leo Murray, Chief Innovation Officer at Possible, said: “This forensic investigation shows just how implausible and credulous the government’s jet-zero strategy is shaping up to be. How can we credibly expect this industry to exceed emissions reduction targets when it has never met any of its previous climate targets?

“Clearly we need to demand a reduction via a frequent flyer tax, which would discourage frequent flights by a small group of people who make up the bulk of aircraft emissions.”

Air travel accounted for 2.1% of man-made carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, the equivalent of around 915 million tonnes, according to the Air Transport Action Group. An estimated 15% of people take 70% of all flights, according to Possible.

The atmospheric targets report was written by researchers at sustainability agency Green Gumption, who looked at climate targets starting and ending between 2000 and 2021, and assessing progress against some longer-term goals. .

They found that unclear definitions, opaque monitoring and inconsistent reporting made many targets difficult to assess, with many sudden changes, replacements or deletions over the study period. Moreover, even if the targets had been met, according to the researchers, many were not ambitious enough to reduce the climate impact of aviation.

In 2007, Virgin Atlantic set itself a target of reducing CO2 emissions by 30%2 per revenue tonne kilometer (CO2/RTK) by 2020, which the company later described as “a big goal and we’re sticking to it,” according to the report. In a 2014 sustainability report, with a CO2/RTK reduction of just 8% from baseline, the airline admitted: “We are almost halfway to our target period and know we have to pick up the pace.”

But when Virgin’s 2020 annual report was released, it no longer mentioned the 2020 target. The following year, a company press release announced a new target of 15% gross CO2/RTK reduction by 2026.

The researchers conclude that setting climate targets is actually a smokescreen for the status quo. Such goals “seem to work primarily as a tactic to convey a sense of progress and action to address aviation’s environmental impacts to the public and policy makers, in order to avoid political impediments to the continued growth of the industry,” the report said.

It includes a quote from Steve Ridgway, Virgin’s chief executive in 2007, who said: “It’s important that the airline industry is seen to be doing something.

The government’s jet-zero strategy is due to be released in July and is expected to challenge guidance from the climate change committee that deliberate policies will be needed to manage growth in air travel demand to meet the government’s net zero targets. UK.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: ‘This report deliberately ignores this government’s historic investment in technology, fuel and market-based measures that will help us get to jet zero by 2050 without having need new taxes. This includes £180m to accelerate sustainable aviation fuel and £685m to develop carbon-free, low-emission aircraft technology.

The Guardian has contacted Virgin Atlantic for comment.