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IATA’s New Per-Passenger Tracking Method for Carbon Emissions

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced a collaboration with the Aviation Impact Accelerator (AIA) to develop a new per-passenger tracking method for carbon emissions. AIA is a global partnership housed at the University of Cambridge with the goal of putting the aviation industry on the fast track to net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. 

This joint venture aims to understand the financial implications of achieving aviation’s 2050 net-zero CO2 goal. By building on existing research, the collaboration will assist in creating tools for airlines to analyze and evaluate different decarbonization routes. 

The purpose of this partnership is simple: To help airlines and policy-makers make informed decisions as they transition to a net-zero future. This collaboration will lay a robust foundation for IATA and AIA to forge a wider, long-term partnership. 

AIA is a collective of international experts brought together by the University of Cambridge. Their mission? To speed up the journey to sustainable aviation through the development of evidence-based tools. These tools will help everyone understand, map, and embark on pathways toward sustainable flight. 

“We are thrilled to launch this collaboration with IATA, exploring realistic pathways for aviation’s transition to net-zero emissions by 2050. IATA’s impressive track record of driving change and fostering cooperation in the sector, combined with AIA’s unique modeling capability, presents a golden opportunity for progress,” said Prof. Rob Miller, Director of the Whittle Laboratory, University of Cambridge, and AIA lead. 

“We are thrilled to join forces with the Aviation Impact Accelerator. Our goal is to enhance our understanding of how to achieve a sustainable future for air transport. We are particularly interested in how different technological pathways can influence the long-term outlook of our industry,” said Marie Owens Thomsen, IATA’s Senior Vice President of Sustainability and Chief Economist. 

In the future, AIA and IATA plan to work together on the development of IATA’s Recommended Practice Per-Passenger CO2 Calculation Methodology. This methodology, used in combination with verified airline operational data, provides highly accurate and transparent calculation results for those interested in understanding the carbon footprint from flying activity. 

There’s a growing demand from passengers, corporations, travel management companies, and travel agents for estimates of CO2 emissions on a per-passenger basis, both for past and future flights. 

It’s also recognized that a standardized industry approach to calculating per-passenger CO2 emissions is needed to ensure consistency across the board. 

Factors beyond the control of airlines, such as weather and traffic, can impact fuel burn and related CO2 emissions. Therefore, it’s suggested not to rely solely on individual, single-flight data to predict a flight’s CO2 emissions, as this could lead to inaccuracies. 

Instead, specific principles and methodologies are recommended for calculating CO2 emissions that result in more reliable measurements.

The following charts from the report illustrate the basic concept of the measurements (These are only used as an example and do not reflect actual flights or figures). 

Source: IATA

IATA’s transparency in their process of calculations of the per-aircraft/per-passenger/per-class modeling is a breath of fresh air. It provides specific measures for those in the industry looking to make informed decisions about their fleet and cabin design.

IATA’s new per-passenger tracking method for carbon emissions is a work in progress, but it is progress. As it is refined, this tool will help inform other models that inform the flying public of the carbon impact of their flights.

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