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Emptying skies to cut airline emissions by 38% in 2020, says report

Traffic forecasts by the International Air Transport Association suggest airlines’ emissions could drop 38% in 2020

By: Bloomberg | Published: April 3, 2020 11:10:09 am
A passenger aircraft flies from Frankfurt Airport, operated by Fraport AG, in Frankfurt, Germany, on Monday, March 16, 2020. (Image source: Bloomberg)

Airlines’ carbon emissions could drop by more than one-third this year as travel demand sinks, a trend that could continue as businesses reassess their need to fly, according to the Australia Institute.

The industry’s carbon-dioxide emissions between Feb. 1 and March 19 fell by more than 10 million tons from the same period a year ago as airlines scrapped flights during the coronavirus outbreak, the research body said in a report. Traffic forecasts by the International Air Transport Association suggest airlines’ emissions could drop 38% in 2020, the report said.

Businesses barred from flying have turned to online alternatives to face-to-face meetings including Zoom Video Communications. The teleconferencing company has recorded more active users in the first two months of 2020 than in all of 2019. Commercial aviation accounts for about 2% of global carbon emissions, according to IATA.

“The question remains as to whether Covid-19 pandemic will permanently change our flying habits,” said Richie Merzian, climate and energy program director at the Australia Institute. “If we can work well together online now, perhaps it will permanently reduce the need for business travel.”

Air traffic bounced back within months after SARS in 2003, though that outbreak didn’t have the global reach nor impact of the coronavirus.

In Australia, Qantas Airways Ltd. and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd., have shuttered all international routes and pared back domestic services to the bare bones.

Those cuts will see the country’s demand for aviation fuel drop by as much as 90% as long as the crisis persists, according to fuel marketing company Caltex Australia Ltd. Australia’s aviation emissions could more than halve in 2020, the Australia Institute report said.

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