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Airlines feeling the heat on emissions

13 Mar 2019

The world’s largest publically-owned airlines are not doing enough to fight climate change, research claims.

Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), which assesses how ready companies are to move to a low carbon economy, found that none of the world’s largest 20 listed carriers have CO₂ targets that will meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global temperature rises below two degree Celsius.

The authors of the report, who are backed by the owners and managers of $13trn (£9.9trn) of assets, including the Church of England Pensions Board, also called for more transparency as it is unclear how these airlines plan to reduce their flight emissions beyond 2025.

Airlines currently account for 2% of global CO₂ emissions, but the study discovered that they appear to be only doing the basics when it comes to protecting the environment.

Many airlines have adopted industry targets to reduce emissions, but this approach relies on offsetting to limit their carbon footprints.

The study looked at fuel efficiency per passenger for each kilometre flown which put ANA, Japan Airlines, Korean Air and Singapore Airlines at the top of the highest emitters list. The lowest emitter is UK budget carrier Easyjet, which is also the only airline that has a two degree Celsius target beyond next year.

Since the research was published Wizz Air has provided more information on its climate performance, which could put it on the low emitter list once the information has been verified by the authors of the research.

TPI co-chair Faith Ward said investors have a clear message to the aviation sector. “When it comes to carbon performance they must be in it for the long haul.

“That means setting stretching emissions reduction targets to 2030 and beyond, and ending a reliance on offsetting,” she added.

USS’ head of responsible investment, David Russell, welcomed the research. “The airline sector is one where emissions – and therefore exposure to climate policy risk – are predicted to grow. As a result, the sector has to be able to explain to its investors how it will manage the shift to a lower carbon future.

“The analysis shows that whilst some in the sector are treating this issue strategically, others have some way to go,” he added.

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