IATA has spoken out against efforts to “deliberately suppress air travel through punitive passenger taxes,” imploring the global community to support the upcoming Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) scheme.

“Taxation aimed at stopping people from exercising their freedom to fly will make travel more expensive but do very little to reduce emissions,” says director general and chief executive, Alexandre de Juniac.

“It is a politician’s feel-good solution, without taking responsibility for the negative impact it has on the economy or the mobility restrictions it imposes on people with lower incomes.”

The trade association’s analysis shows that carbon emissions per passenger has declined by more than 50% since 1990, and this is largely due to improvements in fuel efficiency, which are ahead of target.

“Cutting per passenger emissions in half is an amazing achievement of the technical expertise and innovation in the aviation industry. But we have even bigger ambitions. From 2020 we will cap net emissions. And by 2050 we will cut emissions to half 2005 levels. Accomplishing these targets means continued investment in new technology, sustainable fuels, and operational improvements,” says de Juniac.

This progress is a combination of investments in more efficient aircraft and operational efficiencies. Airlines have invested $1 trillion in new aircraft since 2009 and signed forward purchase agreements for sustainable aviation fuel amounting to approximately $6 billion.

As such, a financially sound airline sector capable of funding significant investments for sustainability is necessary. The introduction of CORSIA, besides ensuring carbon-neutral growth, will also raise around $40 billion in climate finance.

The scheme was developed by the ICAO and adopted in October 2016. It only addresses carbon emissions from international flights and involves airlines purchasing offsets from other sectors to maintain a projected 2020 baseline.

All ICAO members are to begin monitoring and reporting these emissions from 2019, ahead of a voluntary pilot phase from 2021. The second, mandatory phrase kicks in from 2027, and in 2032, ICAO will review plans beyond 2035.

“The CORSIA scheme’s effectiveness lies in its global scope,” says IATA. It expects the scheme to reduce emissions by around 2.5 billion but notes that the global response to its implementation is being “compromised by governments introducing a patchwork of carbon taxes”.

IATA raised as an example decisions or proposals to levy air passenger taxes in countries like France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, with de Juniac imploring governments to “focus their efforts correctly”.

“Flying drives prosperity. It is not the enemy,” he says. “Cutting carbon must at the forefront. And government leadership is needed to incentivise the commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuels, drive efficiencies in air traffic management and support research into next generation low-carbon energy sources.”