The global aviation industry has committed that its greenhouse gas emissions will not increase after 2020, and by 2050 emissions will be halved from 2005 levels. But a recent study projects that aviation emissions will actually increase between 50 and 500% instead, unless market-based measures are used.

The study, by David Lee of Manchester Metropolitan University, concludes that the aviation industry will not be able to get anywhere near meeting its voluntary commitments unless it adopts a global market-based measure. The International Civil Aviation Organization – a specialized UN agency – says it will meet its commitments through a combination of efficiency improvements, improved air traffic management, on-board technologies and biofuels.

Lee, who is a professor in the department of Atmospheric Science and director of the Centre for Aviation, Transport, and the Environment at the university, said that emissions from aviation are projected to roughly triple. He found that none of the measures, or their combinations, for any growth scenario managed to meet either the 2020 or the 2050 goal. The study has said the maximum reductions over the business-as-usual scenario would be achieved through market-based measures.

Aviation emissions currently account for 2-2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Global air traffic in Revenue Passenger Kilometres (RPK) has increased by a factor of 2.5 between 1990 and 2010, and a factor of 1.6 between 2000 and 2010. The report has shown that from baseline emissions of 630 Mtonnes of carbon dioxide in 2006, total aviation emissions are projected to increase to between 1,034 and 3,105 Mtonnes by 2050.

The report comes ahead of a series of meetings scheduled in September, where the ICAO council is supposed to develop a framework for dealing with climate change. Increased carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere is the major cause of climate change, which is already affecting farm output worldwide, making droughts, floods and storms more severe and more frequent, and raising the sea level.

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