A charity report looking at all environmental targets since 2000 has found that nearly all have been missed.

Sustainability targets missed

49 out of 50 targets were missed, the new report says. The research funded by climate charity Possible looked at all the targets the aviation industry has set itself since the turn of the century. This includes goals set by airlines, regulators, and trade associations like the IATA. The report found that nearly every target had been missed, changed, or quietly forgotten.

Aviation industry fails to meet sustainability targets
An excerpt from the report | © Possible

The only target that was achieved was easyJet’s 2008 pledge to reduce fuel burn per passenger by 3%. The report labels this target “unambitious” and implies that it was only met because senior executive bonuses were linked to targets that year.

The study was conducted by the sustainability agency Green Gumption, which found targets challenging to assess, as the goals set were often unclear in definition, and airlines were not transparent in how they monitored their progress.

Some targets were clearly not met. In 2007, the IATA said it wanted the industry to be running off 10% climate-friendly fuel by 2017. When the deadline came about, Possible estimated that only 0.002% of jet fuel was coming from climate-friendly sources. In recent months, British Airways have announced they will be on 10% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030, and Ryanair has made a similar pledge.

Currently, the main barrier to using SAF is that its production is nowhere near large enough to support the industry’s needs. For example, the new billion-pound Lighthouse Green Fuels plant in Teesside will supply 180 million litres of fuel a year, but a single airline might use 150 litres. Possible has a solution to this: fewer flights.

Possible’s plea

Possible are using the research to prove that the airline industry is not capable of curtailing its own carbon emissions. In light of this, it wants the government to impose stricter rules on airlines, namely, a frequent flyer tax. They estimate that 15% of people take 70% of all flights and want to tax those people to reduce flights.

“It’s clear that we need to demand reduction via a frequent flyer levy, which would discourage the frequent flying by a small group of people which makes up the bulk of emissions from planes.”

Says Leo Murray, Possible’s director of innovation. Adding:

“This forensic investigation shows just how implausible and credulous the government’s jet-zero strategy is shaping up to be. How can we credibly expect this industry to overdeliver on emissions reduction when they’ve never met any of their previous climate targets?”

In reference to the UK government’s strategy for net-zero aviation by 2050, which is due to be published this July.

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