Home Emergency Management News Forests Can Help Offset Aviation Carbon Emissions

Forests Can Help Offset Aviation Carbon Emissions


Carbon Emission Offset Goals

Airlines have a 2020 deadline to meet for reducing or offsetting carbon emissions, as specified by the Aviation Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Currently, technology falls short of even coming close to achieving the level of reduction needed.  To address the existing gap, a group of non-governmental organization (NGOs) proposed a method to help the airlines meet the outlined goals to offset emissions - and help save forests around the world.

Global Market-Based Measures

Carbon emissions by airlines is at higher altitudes, where scientists believe the impact on global warming is stronger.  In light of a burgeoning world population, an estimated 56,000 additional airplanes will have to take to the sky in order to meet demand by 2040.  This will also increase the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, tripling or quadrupling current emissions.  To help do their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is seeking global market-based measures (MBM) to help the industry reduce its carbon footprint.

The report notes that final touches on its MBM by the ICAO Assembly will be complete in October of 2016 with the goal of assisting airlines in meeting their climate change targets of 2020.

MBM Guidelines

Such measures would need to meet certain established guidelines, a few of which are listed below:

  • Measures must support the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Methods must be transparent: incorporating monitoring, reporting, and independent verification.
  • Measures must be cost-effective, including implementation.
  • Methods must be able to ensure that no double counting/double claiming occurs of emission reductions.

How Forests Can Help

The report offers an innovative plan on how forests can help world airlines meet carbon emission reduction goals and close the 7.8 million ton emissions gap by the 2020 deadline.  The NGOs believe one of the best programs to assist airlines in carbon offsets is the REDD+ measure: Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and sustainable management of forests, conservation of forest carbon stocks and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (collectively referred to as REDD+).

This method of carbon offset provides additional benefits to developing countries, including sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, support of local communities, and human well-being.  It also helps ensure that delicate ecosystems balances and functions are maintained and sustained.

The REDD+ method helps prevent deforestation, ensures the proper management of forests (with the preservation of biodiversity and fragile ecosystems), and helps local communities understand the importance of the forests (food, water, fuel, medicine) while ensuring their future sustainability.

Currently, there are several airlines that already support the REDD+ initiative: Delta Air Lines, Air Canada, Qantas Airlines, United Airlines, and Kenya Airways.  These airlines offer programs where passengers may voluntarily choose to offset the flight's carbon emissions through the REDD+ program.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.