Europe’s net-zero flying pledge goes global

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Could flying one day be as eco-friendly as taking the train? The airline industry thinks so.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced on Monday (4 October) that global airlines will commit to achieving net zero flying by the middle of the century.

IATA represents 290 member airlines comprising around four-fifths of global air traffic.

“For aviation, net zero is a bold, audacious commitment. But it is also a necessity,” Willie Walsh, director general of IATA, said at a meeting of airline executives in Boston.

“The important decision that we must make today will secure the freedom to fly for future generations.”

The move follows in the footsteps of major European airlines, who made the same pledge last February.

IATA’s green commitment was adopted without major objections from members, save for some grumbling from Chinese airlines that 2060 would be in line with Beijing’s stated date for achieving carbon neutrality.

Walsh cited the industry’s investment in cleaner aircraft as proof of its commitment to cutting emissions, but some critics are yet to be fully convinced.

The clean mobility NGO Transport & Environment pointed to examples of IATA lobbying against EU plans to tax jet fuel and its opposition to national ticket taxes.

“Big announcements on the international stage mean nothing if they’re not backed by credible policy,” said Jo Dardenne, aviation manager at T&E.

So how can we decarbonise flying?

Clean aircraft tech, such as electric and hydrogen-powered planes, may one day be the answer, but this is not expected for at least another decade (and will require significant R&D investment to get there).

In Europe, the European Commission has taken a multi-strand policy approach to cutting aviation’s carbon footprint.

Proposals include plans to scrap the tax-free status of kerosene, phasing out free CO2 permits for flights covered by the EU’s carbon market, and a mandate that jets refuelling at EU airports uplift a set percentage of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs).

As a result of these green measures, flying will likely become more expensive, but by how much remains to be seen.

According to European Commission estimates, the increase will be a modest 8% by 2050.

“I think the European airlines are ready, and the passengers are ready, to shoulder that additional cost,” said Filip Cornelis, aviation director at the European Commission’s transport department.


Airlines commit to COVID refunds

Passengers whose travel plans were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic received some welcome news this past week, as European airlines agreed to refund flight cancellations in full.

The airlines, which include Air France-KLM, British Airways, Easyjet, Lufthansa, Ryanair, TAP, and Wizz Air, also committed to provide better information on passengers’ rights going forward.

The move comes following talks between the airlines and the European Commission.

“In the early phase of the pandemic, some airlines pushed vouchers on passengers,” Didier Reynders, European commissioner for justice, said in a statement. “They were acting against EU consumer protection rules. That was unacceptable,” he said.

The EU transport commissioner Adina Vălean welcomed the agreement, saying it will help to restore consumers’ trust in airlines following the pandemic-induced breakdown.


Is Paris facing two-wheeled anarchy?

The grey lady of newspapers, the New York Times, caused a stir online with a recent assessment of the French capital’s attempts to transform itself into one of the world’s great cycling cities.

The article, titled “As Bikers Throng the Streets, ‘It’s Like Paris Is in Anarchy‘”, paints a lawless picture of bike riders terrorising pedestrians as they attempt to make their way through the City of Lights.

Cyclists’ collective lack of road-sharing etiquette is behind the “anarchy”, as the entitled two-wheelers jump red lights and barge through pedestrian crossings.

Parisian cyclists are compared unfavourably to their more gentile counterparts in Copenhagen, who, we are told, respect the rules of the road.

Reaction online has ranged from bemusement to annoyance, and, perhaps more rarely, agreement.

Much of the online backlash has focused on the perception that prior to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo allocating space to cycling, the car-centric street set up was more orderly.

“Cars may kill millions of people, but I saw a biker run a red light once so it’s really impossible to say which one is worse,” came one sarcastic reply.


A roundup of the most captivating transport news.

World airlines commit to ‘net zero’ CO2 emissions by 2050

The world’s airlines made a joint pledge on Monday (4 October) to reach “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050, as the aviation industry ramps up efforts to curb its contribution to global warming.

Greening measures will add around 8% to airline costs, EU estimates

Environmental regulations aimed at cutting the carbon footprint of aviation will increase the cost of flying by around 8% by 2050, according to the European Commission.

EU Commission, industry clash over green jet fuel mandate

The European Commission has strongly denied accusations that its proposed mandate to support sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) will lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions by diverting waste-based biofuels from the road sector.

European battery law will set global standard for the car industry, EU says

Proposed EU legislation to ensure materials for batteries are sourced ethically and sustainably will push up global standards, making Europe a “trailblazer” in the field, the European Commission has said.

Lack of green maritime fuels makes liquid natural gas a necessity says Commission

Liquid natural gas (LNG) is a necessary transitional fuel to decarbonise EU maritime activities as the available quantities of zero- or low-carbon fuels are currently insufficient, the European Commission has said.

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