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19/05/2023

What does global temperature rise mean for aviation?

Luisa Barnes, Aviation Analyst 

[email protected]

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently published a report stating that climate change is set to breach the warming limit, set under the 2015 Paris Agreement. By the year 2027, they warn of a global 1.5°C temperature rise for the first time and a 2 in 3 chance that within the next five years, we’ll exceed the crucial 1.5°C threshold during a one-year period. So overall, the IPCC expects the next five years to be the hottest ever on record. 

 

What’s more, on top of the global warming from anthropogenic activities, it is probable that the oscillating weather system El No will force temperatures to record levels and profound emission mitigation is urgently needed if we are to avoid irreversible damage. 

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So, what does this mean for aviation?  

This new report is a stark warning for all sectors to ramp up their emission reductions and net zero targets. As the climate crisis develops, emission targets are becoming more stringent (especially in Europe), but sustainability metrics lack standardisation, and this makes it difficult for organisations within the industrysuch as airlinesto set clear and coherent targets. 

 

It is also difficult for airlines to know what they need to report on, as the plethora of current initiatives have broadly the same outcomes, albeit via different methodologies and data points. 

 

There are various conventions and commitments, such as agreements extending from COP and the SDGs. There are also regulations, like the EU Taxonomy, SEC climate-related disclosures, and reporting frameworks, including TCFD, CDP, ISO, and other initiatives such as the SBTi. These are all wanting to achieve similar goals, so there is an imperative need for one clear guide that the aviation industry should follow. 

Is SAF the answer?  

Although, the industry should not be excused for its steady emission reduction progression, due to a lack of standardised metrics. On top of sustainability metric convergence, in the short-term at least, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) adoption is crucial for all airlines as an interim solution, but in the long-term, scalability is a hindrance due to limited feedstock availability and production plants. 

 

Therefore, fleet modernisation is essential, as it’s estimated that a NEO is approximately 20% more efficient than a CEO. In some regions, like Africa for instance, CEOs are still prevalent in multiple operators’ fleets and the region has an average fleet age of 16.7 years, which is considerably above the global average of 12.4 years, thus having an impact on emission levels. 

 

Lastly, carbon capture and green hydrogen technology could prove to be a more sustainable solution in the long-term. There is a lot of focus within the industry currently on SAF, due to it being a ‘drop-in fuel’, and the absence of the requirement for an aircraft redesign—this is not a feasible long-term solution. 

How should the aviation world proceed?  

The IBA team are encouraged by the current exploration and investments into these technologies, but we would like more organisations within the industry to draw focus on them. IBA would also recommend that the industry adopts a standardised methodology for which to measure carbon emissions. This would enable clear targets to be set industry-wide, and additionally, we hope documents such as the IPCC reports, will act as a catalyst for the sector to accelerate progress towards net zero, in preparation for the inevitable climate challenges ahead. 

 


 
IBA are leading the aviation emissions agenda with a dedicated ESG Consulting team and IBA NetZero, Winner of the Aviation 100 Sustainability Technology Award for 2022 & 2023.

 

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