Are airlines doing enough to reduce their carbon emissions?

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that it will achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020. Investing in biotechnology, biofuels, more efficient practices and also carbon trading are just some of the measures they intend to take. Additionally, they have announced that they believe carbon trading will cost the industry around $ 7 billion starting in 2020 (based on a carbon price of $ 65 per metric ton in 2020).

Some US airlines have reduced their flights in response to falling demand for travel and cargo, and airlines in Asia and Europe are likely to make similar scheduling cuts to lower their operating costs.

In the United States, Northwest Airlines has excluded spoons from its silverware package if the onboard meal does not require one. “When you talk about a jumbo jet with 400 people on board, serving two or three meals, this can save a few pounds,” they said. American Airlines said fuel-saving measures have helped it save more than 110 million gallons of fuel a year and have reduced their carbon emissions by 2.3 billion pounds in 2008. Their goal is to save 120 million gallons of fuel and reduce carbon emissions by 2.5 billion pounds in 2009.

JAL from Japan took everything he loaded from a 747 and placed it on the floor of a school gym to see what he really needed. As a direct result, it reduced the size of all cutlery on board to reduce weight.

Many other carriers have put their planes on thinning plans to change excess sagging. Some have dropped their magazines in flight, while others are digitizing their duty-free catalogs on back-up televisions. Catering carts are getting lighter and less water is loaded on these “thin” planes

Aircraft seats are losing weight as well, as the next generation of aircraft seats are made of composite material rather than the aluminum that is currently used. This will result in these seats being up to 30 percent lighter than the current generation. On-board TVs are now made from reinforced carbon fiber, which translates into weight savings of up to 50%.

While these weight-saving measures are helping, the industry is also looking to step up the use of alternative carbon-free biofuels, which should account for up to six percent of the industry total by 2020.

Several airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, Continental and Air New Zealand, have already conducted extensive testing and test flights with alternative fuels.

Airports and air traffic control are also playing their role, with up to 100 European airports reportedly preparing to change their rules on aircraft landing procedures. The plan is to apply a “continuous descent approach”, or CDA, which allows for a smoother and more efficient descent and reduces carbon emissions per flight by 160 kg to 470 kg.

IATA also reaffirmed previous industry environmental goals of reducing absolute emissions by 50 percent by 2050 and improving average fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent annually between now and 2020. Airlines will reduce their carbon emissions. by nearly 8 percent this year as they reduce the number of flights. operate in line with a drop in demand for cargo and passengers, and about 6 percent of the predicted carbon reduction will come as a result of carriers flying fewer planes in 2009, and another 1.8 percent reflects steps to improve energy efficiency, International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.

These changes are just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to reducing airline carbon emissions, but they are a start.

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