20 November 2022

Brace for impact. International aviation Net Zero 2050 flightpath crashes in Melbourne.

by Mark Carter, Flight Free Australia

This week Flight Free Australia and Extinction Rebellion picketed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Slot Conference in Melbourne to protest the airport and airline fossil fuel industry’s emissions expansion plans.

[A landing slot is permission for an airline to take off and land a particular regular flight at an airport.]

Right now we’re the middle of the climate emergency.  

Right now, Melbourne Airport wants to increase its flight emissions by around 60%, creating an extra 160 million tonnes — 50 times more than they admit — by 2046 from flights enabled by its proposed third runway.

Right now, the Melbourne–Sydney flight path is the second most emissions intensive route, per kilometre, on the planet.

Right now, flying is the most single worst thing you can do for global warming, and its impact is three times three times greater than the industry admits.

Right now, they plan on growing four percent every year. 

At the same time, the world is meeting at COP27 because rapid emissions reductions are necessary. 

At the same time, the uncompromised science tells us that we can burn no more carbon for an acceptable probability of avoiding climate chaos. We need to stop burning fossil fuels today. ASAP. The quicker the better.

What then is IATA’s emissions reduction response to our climate reality? It’s Net Zero 2050. It’s ongoing emissions out to 2050 and beyond. It’s a climate-crash flightpath. 

According to the IPCC, Net Zero 2050 has a less than 50:50 chance of a safe landing. As low as a one in three chance of preventing 1.5ºC of warming — that the world has said we must prevent. Are our governments acknowledging this risk? Are our media reporting this risk? Would you get on a plane that was more than likely to crash? 

For an industry that prides itself on safety, Net Zero 2050 is an insanely risky trajectory. 

But even Net Zero 2050’s emissions reductions are massively overstated. Some are supposed to come from the use of alternative fuels. But they can’t replace avgas across the global fleet for decades, if ever. They won’t be emissions free even then, because they only work in a blend with fossil fuel, and still create non-CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions — including contrails — that are twice as warming as CO2 alone (as does even green hydrogen). And deducting the carbon already in the fuel stock doesn't make burning it emissions free. They are not “sustainable” aviation fuels. 

Net Zero 2050’s emissions reductions are also supposed to come from offsetting flight emissions against carbon drawdown. But massive carbon draw down is needed now to cool an already disastrously hot planet. So stealing it for offsetting is a crime. 

And yes, thankfully renewables powered short haul electric flights may be possible in the years to come. But that can't excuse ongoing emissions in the meantime. 

The Net Zero 2050 pathway is seriously dangerous greenwash. It won’t prevent 2ºC of warming. 

Yet look who’s onboard this climate crash flightpath. Look who’s signed up to Net Zero 2050. Alongside IATA, there’s Qantas, there’s Virgin Australia, there’s your industry super fund through Melbourne Airport shareholder IFM Investors, there’s the taxpayer funded Future Fund, another Melbourne Airport shareholder, there’s our Victorian government. And there’s our federal government with its recent support for an unsustainable Sustainable Aviation Fuel industry. And they want us to join them.

Unfortunately, to cut aviation emissions we need to get to the emergency exit. Massive and rapid reductions in flight demand are the only way we can get to a safer destination. The IATA Slot Conference should be rapidly and massively cutting slots, cutting flight numbers, until they’re emissions free. Or we fry. Not fly. Fry.  

Staying on the ground is a massive challenge. Yes, it’ll be difficult. But it will be far, far, far, easier than struggling to survive climate chaos and collapsing life support systems. We can make rail travel better and faster, if we want it. We can voluntarily restrain ourselves, if we want to. We can choose to regulate flight reductions if we want to.

But are our leaders actually up for the challenge? Will they really continue to prioritise saving an inequitable economy, or anything else for that matter, over saving our life support systems? Will they really choose to sign, as UN Secretary General Guterres warns, a collective suicide pact?

It’s time to disembark IATA’s Net Zero 2050 flight.

More information: flightfree.net.au   contact@flightfree.net.au