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Aviation excuses just won’t fly

by gwcmag

They include that IATA plans for at least a doubling of global air passengers by 2050, hugely increasing the size of  the industry, just as its climate impacts need abating.

The plan focuses on attempts to “decarbonise” aviation, but it completely disregards the existence of aviation’s non-carbon dioxide (CO2) climate impacts. Scientists agree that these other such effects are roughly equivalent to the CO2 impacts, amounting to a doubling of the problem from the carbon emissions. Ignoring these means that IATA is turning a blind eye to half the problem.

More troubling still, under the plan, over the next immediate decade – a period when it is crucial to reduce climate impact – emissions and non-CO2 effects will actually increase, only being “off-set” by mechanisms that will have only marginal effects at best, and at worst under lax regulatory systems for biofuels, could make matters worse.

From 2035 to 2050 the plan envisages a switch to biofuels, something that for aviation fuel alone will require three times as much biofuels as the present, global production of all liquid biofuels.


Such a development would require vast amounts of land, endanger global biodiversity, put pressure on food production for human consumption and increase risks of land grabbing for crops for biofuel production.

Even if the plan succeeds on its own terms, it will leave the aviation industry causing as much climate damage in 2050 as it is today, while also taking up a huge and much larger share of the shrinking global carbon budget for this century.

To remedy the situation, the New Weather Institute is calling on IATA and the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, to draft, pass and implement a resolution on industry-wide climate action that is truly in line with the Paris agreement, committing aviation to zero CO2emissions by 2050, including non-CO2-effects.

It also wants to see an inquiry under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the scale of the aviation industry which – allowing for other sectors and aviation’s non-CO2 effects – would be compatible with reaching the 1.5°C goal, with realistic short term action in the first decade to create a credible pathway beyond 2030.


While this happens, governments should take immediate action to limit the growth of aviation through domestic, joint or unilateral measures, including an embargo on the further expansion of the industry.

IATA’s plans are also a form of greenwash, attempting to present the industry as taking responsible action on the climate emergency when they are doing the opposite.

In spite of its gaping holes and lack of sound science IATA is currently marketing its “Fly Net Zero” scheme on its website with the claim that the pledge focused on being ‘net zero’ by 2050 sets global aviation “in line with the objectives of the Paris agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”

The New Weather Institute considers these claims to be unproven. This, we feel, places IATA in breach of the Advertising and Marketing Communications Code of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and, as a result, the Institute has filed a complaint with the (Swedish) regulator (Reklamombudsmannen) which has a wide enough remit to be able to hold IATA to account.

 These Authors

Andrew Simms is co-director of the New Weather Institute, coordinator of the Rapid Transition Alliance, author of several books on new and green economics and co-author of the original Green New Deal. He is on twitter at @AndrewSimms_uk.

Gunnar Lind is a co-founder of New Weather Sweden, and special advisor to the former Minister for the Environment and Climate in Sweden, Isabella Lövin, where he worked until February 2021. 

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