Guest essay by Vijay Jayaraj
Image by: BriYYZ from Toronto, Canada – IndiGo Airbus A320neo F-WWDG (to VT-ITI), CC BY-SA 2.0
Indian low-cost carrier IndiGo recently made headlines with its record-breaking order of Airbus passenger jets. The deal, worth an estimated $50 billion, is the largest single order in Airbus history.
While the order for 500 of the A320neo aircraft is a major coup for Airbus, it is being termed a “setback” for climate action. It is worth noting that Air India, another large carrier, recently placed orders totaling $70 billion in retail value for 470 aircraft from Airbus and Boeing, including 70 twin-aisle models.
These orders from IndiGo and Air India for 970 new planes are signs of India’s growing economic power and rising middle class. Air travel is closely associated with economic growth, and these orders will help meet the subcontinent’s growing demand.
However, the orders are another example of emerging economic powerhouses like India and China openly resisting the global climate madness and its calls to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
Aviation Industry and Emissions
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set numerous goals to reduce carbon emissions by 2050. As per IATA, “at the 77th IATA Annual General Meeting in Boston, USA, on 4 October 2021, a resolution was passed by IATA member airlines committing them to achieving net-zero carbon emissions from their operations by 2050.”
Achieving this goal will require a significant reduction in emissions. It is unclear whether IndiGo’s new aircraft deal will help meet the IATA’s emissions goals. The A320neo is more fuel-efficient than previous models, but it still produces significant emissions.
As per Airbus, there will be an “annual reduction in CO2 emissions of around 900 tonnes per aircraft,” when using the new Airbus 320 NEO compared to the A320ceo, its predecessor. However, this still means that each A320neo will emit around 100 tons of CO2 per year. That is around 50,000 tons of new emissions per year in addition to the emissions from IndiGo’s existing large fleet. That’s considerably more than zero – net or otherwise.
Paris Agreement and Net Zero Are Meaningless
Numerous national leaders have set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which they believe will reverse a modest warming of the climate that they irrationally deem dangerous. The Paris Agreement, for example, calls for global emissions to peak by 2030 and to be at an ill-defined net zero by 2050. The agreement provides no reasonable way of achieving the goal nor a scientifically valid reason for doing so.
Signatories of the Paris Agreement include India and France, home countries of the aircraft purchasers and of Airbus, respectively.
India is already the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and its aviation sector is one of the fastest-growing in the world. With an increasing population already at 1.4 billion, the government is under pressure to provide affordable air travel to citizens. As a result, it is unlikely to restrict travel even if such measures are necessary to reduce emissions.
France has taken a different approach to the problem of climate change, banning short-haul flights within the country to cut emissions. The new bill prohibits flights when a train trip of 2.5 hours or less is available. The law has been met with mixed reactions with environmentalists complaining that it doesn’t go far enough.
Now, France has allowed Airbus to take all-time record-breaking orders from IndiGo and Airbus. It is quite difficult to understand why France would stop its own citizens from flying but would approve aircraft production for short-haul flights in India.
The incongruity of France – site of the Paris Agreement’s signing – allowing huge aircraft orders from high-emission countries illustrates the net zero proponents’ ongoing divergence from reality. Developing countries will continue to defy international climate goals as they become more intentional about addressing economic concerns.
Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, UK, and resides in India.