Commercial aviation emissions in Australia could drop by more than 50 per cent in 2020 as a result of the COVID19 pandemic, according to new research.
Analysis by The Australia Institute shows that COVID-19 related cuts to commercial air traffic has already resulted in approximately a 10.3-tonne reduction in global CO2 emissions over February and March 2020.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) now projects a 38 per cent cut to air travel in 2020, which equates to a 352.7-tonne fall in global civil aviation emissions compared to 2019, and an 8.8-tonne (or 37 per cent) CO2 fall in Australian aviation emissions.
However, Richie Merzian, director of the climate and energy program at The Australia Institute, said if the cuts to flights announced by Qantas and Virgin continue into spring, it would more than halve (to the tune of 56 per cent) annual aviation emissions in Australia.
“The question remains as to whether COVID-19 pandemic will permanently change our flying habits, given epidemics like Avian flu, MERS and SARS saw the volume of air travel recover within a few short months,” he added.
“With the travel and quarantine restrictions in place, there has been an increased demand for alternative solutions – services like teleconferencing system Zoom recorded more active users in the first two months of 2020 than in all of 2019.
“If we can work well together online now, perhaps it will permanently reduce the need for business travel and so emissions over the long term.”
Merzian said governments and airlines across the globe have an opportunity to work together to ensure the industry’s commitment of going carbon neutral is maintained throughout the COVID-19 response and recovery.
Under the United Nations’ Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), all carriers are required to report their CO2 emissions on an annual basis.
Sustainability has been an ongoing challenge for the aviation sector, with industry bigwigs such as Intrepid’s Darrell Wade and Trafalgar’s Gavin Tollman providing their take on how airlines and the wider travel industry should respond in recent times.
Unsurprisingly, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has been vocal in dismissing flight shaming as the answer to airlines’ sustainability woes, but the national carrier has recognised the importance of cutting emissions by pledging to reach a net-zero target by 2050.
Featured image credit: iStock/Gudella