Managing the Carbon Footprint of Australian Aviation
Australia’s civil aviation sector (both domestic and international) contributed a total of 16.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) emissions in 2009–10 according to the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2009–10. This represented 3.0% of Australia’s total emissions from domestic economic sectors and international bunkers (fuel sold for international transport) in 2009–10. Of Australia’s total aviation emissions in that year, 62.7% was due to international operations and the remainder to domestic operations.
Australia’s transport industry as a whole (including international bunkers) contributed 17.2% of the nation’s total emissions in 2009–10. Of the transport total, 17.2% was due to aviation emissions.
Domestic versus International Emissions
Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), domestic and international aviation are treated separately. Domestic aviation emissions are counted as part of country targets while international aviation emissions are dealt with separately by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The integrated global nature of international aviation means that effective action on international aviation emissions requires a concerted effort by all countries. Australia is actively working through ICAO to develop goals and measures for reducing aviation emissions. At the 37th ICAO Assembly in October 2010, Member States agreed to work through ICAO to achieve a global annual average fuel efficiency improvement of 2 per cent until 2050 and resolved to strive to achieve carbon neutral growth for international aviation from 2020. These aspirational goals do not impose any specific obligations on individual Member States.
The ICAO Assembly Resolution also encouraged Member States to voluntarily submit Action Plans by the end of June 2012 which set out their proposed actions towards achieving the global aspirational goals. Australia has developed a National Aviation Emissions Action Plan in consultation with key aviation stakeholders
On the domestic front, the Australian Government announced on 10 July 2011 a comprehensive plan to secure a clean energy future for Australia based on a four pillar approach: a carbon price; renewable energy; energy efficiency; and action on the land. A fixed domestic carbon price of $23 was introduced from 1 July 2012. The price will rise by 2.5% per year in real terms until 1 July 2015 when the carbon price will be set by the market. The carbon price will be applied to domestic aviation through an increase in the domestic aviation fuel excise. Details are provided in a Transport Fuels Factsheet.
Improving Efficiency Through New Technology
Air Traffic Management
Australia’s air navigation service provider, Airservices Australia, has implemented a range of measures to improve fuel efficiency such as flexible flight tracks, improved air traffic control sequencing, continuous descent approaches and better management of aircraft on the ground. Airservices Australia is also working with air navigation service providers of the United States, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and Thailand to improve efficiencies on key Asian and trans-Pacific routes through the Asia and Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE).
Australian airlines are introducing newer, more fuel efficient aircraft into their fleets such as the A380, A320neo, B787 and B737-800 aircraft. The B737-800 aircraft, which is in common use on domestic routes, is about 20 percent more fuel efficient than earlier B737 models. Airlines will continue to refine their operational procedures to minimise fuel use, including reduction in weight of cabin items and reduction of engine ground running time. Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia have also introduced voluntary carbon offset schemes which enable passengers to purchase carbon offsets for their flights. Jetstar and Virgin Australia have reported that approximately 10% of passengers are buying offsets—a figure that is high by international standards.
Australia’s airports are also putting in place a range of measures to manage their contribution to climate change issues. In particular, measures include green star rated commercial developments on airports, energy and water audits, recycling and creation of biodiversity zones.