Emissions trading offers the best and most cost-effective way of mitigating aviation emissions and climate impact by 2050, according to a report by Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Air Transport and Environment (CATE).
The least effective strategy is biofuels, using the assumptions of the UK Committee on Climate Change’s assessment of potential biofuel availability in 2050, even at what it termed “speculative” levels, the report says. Maximum feasible reductions from improvements in technology and operational improvements offer the second best mitigation potential as a single measure.
In Mitigating future aviation CO2 emissions — timing is everything, CATE researchers conducted more than 11,000 calculations to rank the “best” mitigation strategies, both as individual measures and combined strategies, in terms of their climate impacts, calculated as radiative forcing and global mean temperature response.
The reason why an efficiently operated emissions trading system is so effective lies in its possibility to reduce emissions quickly, the report says. Other mitigation strategies — which the report says must still be pursued — offer “late savings” as the relevant technologies and fleet infiltration develop.
The report’s publication coincides with a decision — expected soon — on how to best manage international aviation emissions. The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) must complete a resolution on a market-based plan in the next month or so to avoid the European Commission reinstating its carbon emissions laws on flights taking off or landing from EU member states.
In June, a trade group representing 85 percent of the world’s airline traffic, the International Air Transport Association, adopted a resolution calling for a market-based measure to manage and offset emissions. That resolution proposes that airlines offset increased emissions after 2020 by buying carbon credits from other sectors.
Last month Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Environmental Defense Fund published an analysis that found the aviation industry could achieve its goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 by tapping into the available supply of carbon credits at a cost to the industry as low as $4 per metric ton of CO2.