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Air Cargo tackling environmental challenges

Aviation: a history of meeting challenges and getting things done

“The ability to manage our carbon emissions is our license to grow. That is why we are committed to improving fuel efficiency by 1.5% annually to 2020, capping emissions from 2020 with carbon-neutral growth (CNG2020) and cutting net emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005. No other global industry has made such commitments. And the strategy to achieve these is agreed and clear—focusing on technology, operations, infrastructure and positive economic measures” declared Tony Tyler, IATA Director General during the 2013 World Cargo Symposium.

IATA in collaboration with the entire aviation industry, is working hard to further reduce its environmental impact. The aviation industry already has a successful track record in that area: today’s aircrafts are 70% more fuel efficient than the first jet aircrafts used 40 years ago.

Call for a harmonized measurement of the air cargo carbon footprint

On the cargo side, the supply chain showed during 2012 a growing interest to look into the carbon footprint generated specifically by air freight.  Airlines are looking for a common calculation method to use for the reporting of their CO2 emissions. The freight forwarders and shippers want to obtain accurate carbon footprint information from all their transportation providers. Additionally, new regulatory requirements (such as Grenelle II in France) are also coming into force.

In recent months IATA has joined the Advisory Board of COFRET – a European project looking into the calculation of the carbon footprint along the supply chain –  and has been engaged in discussions with freight forwarders and businesses affected by CO2 reporting requirements. In March 2013, the airlines gave IATA the mandate to develop a common carbon calculation methodology and to pursue collaboration with relevant organizations such as BSR, Carbon Disclosure Project and the World Economic Forum.

To fulfill its mandate, IATA established the Air Cargo Carbon Footprint (ACCF) working group composed of 16 airlines representing the various business models (traditional carriers, cargo-only airlines and integrators) and from all geographic regions. The mission of this group is to provide recommendations on the methodology to measure, allocate and report on the carbon footprint associated with airfreight. The recommendations from the AACF working group will need to be pragmatic, aligned with what the airlines are already doing on the passenger side and aligned with what other modes of transport are doing.

In addition to the cargo carbon emissions measurement issue, IATA is looking at other initiatives having positive environmental impact such as the use of lightweight ULDs, recycled packaging for pharmaceutical products transported by air and of course, the removal of paper documentation through the e-Cargo projects.


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