Emissions from air transport: what role does aviation play in Australia’s emissions?

Aviation refers to the sector involving the operation of aircraft, primarily commercial airlines, which serve both domestic and international routes. It includes passenger flights, freight transport, and private aviation.

Significance of Aviation Emissions to Australia's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Profile

Aviation contributes a modest but not insignificant portion of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Within the transport sector, it represents a significant share, trailing emissions from road transport. Nationally, aviation accounts for a smaller fraction of Australia’s overall emissions but is noteworthy due to its high growth rate and the challenge of reducing emissions from this sector.

Australia's Aviation Emissions Trends Over the Past Decade

Over the last decade, Australia's aviation emissions have shown an upward trend, driven by increased air travel demand both domestically and internationally. However, this growth was temporarily disrupted by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a sharp decline in air travel.

Factors Driving Changes

The primary drivers of aviation emissions include economic growth, population increases, and the expanding global connectivity that necessitates air travel. Technological advancements have somewhat moderated emissions growth by improving fuel efficiency.

Government Projections for Aviation Emissions

Pre-pandemic projections indicated a continued increase in aviation emissions, driven by rising air travel demand. The long-term impact of the pandemic on these projections remains uncertain, with recovery and future growth dependent on global and domestic economic conditions.

Real Emissions Track Record

Prior to the pandemic, real emissions from aviation were largely on track with projections, demonstrating steady growth. The current assessment is complicated by the unprecedented impact of global travel restrictions, making it difficult to predict long-term trends accurately.

Policies and Regulations in Australia to Reduce Emissions from Aviation

Australia’s approach to reducing aviation emissions includes participation in international carbon offsetting and reduction schemes, such as CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), and supporting research into sustainable aviation fuels and more efficient aircraft technology. Domestic measures are less direct, focusing on emissions reporting and efficiency improvements.

Jet Fuel Efficiency's Role in Reducing Transport Emissions

Improvements in jet fuel efficiency play a critical role in reducing emissions from the aviation sector. New aircraft designs, better aerodynamics, and advancements in engine technology have contributed to lower fuel consumption per passenger kilometer, mitigating the growth in emissions despite increased air travel.

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