Making blue skies greener


The aviation industry is committed to carbon-neutral growth by 2020. But are all stakeholders speaking the same language where emissions are concerned? IATA is taking slow but steady steps to align the global village. 

Emissions reporting is a challenging responsibility for any airline, not least because guidelines and calculation principles keep changing – with push and pull from many quarters.

Last year Finnair Cargo took a pioneering step with the launch of its new emissions calculator. This online tool provides customers with easy access to verifiable data on carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions generated by shipments carried by Finnair based on the actual fuel consumption and load of each individual flight. 

The calculator is a perpetual “work in progress” and is updated regularly based on the latest expert guidelines and operational changes such as freighter routing changes or subcontracting of certain transport services. 

Global rules of play

“We strive to keep ourselves informed of all the different emission reporting initiatives and new requirements that come up in various forums,” says Finnair Cargo’s marketing manager Milla Nyholm. “One challenge is to know exactly when to make changes to our tool. Making them too hastily based on one specific initiative might cause extra work if adjustments are needed later,” she notes.

Finnair Cargo is currently modifying the tool in line with a new recommended practice (RP) adopted last March by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The new RP was developed by IATA’s Air Cargo Carbon Footprint (ACCF) working group to help IATA member airlines measure the CO2 emissions generated by air cargo at shipment level. Finnair and 16 other airlines from various regions were represented in the working group.

“Participation in the ACCF group has been a great forum for us, as we had a chance to thoroughly discuss which approaches are most suitable for air cargo,” affirms Nyholm. “We hope the harmonized method will reduce variation in the reporting requests we receive from customers. It will also help all stakeholders understand that calculation methods used for other modes of transport might not automatically work for air transport.”

The world turns slowly

In what is described as a “nine-month turbo delivery” by the project’s initiator, Céline Hourcade, Manager of Cargo Industry Affairs at IATA, the working group developed a solid, harmonized methodology for air cargo carbon footprinting.

“Having one common international standard for air cargo will help airlines, freight forwarders, shippers, regulators and all other parties speak the same language. Many airlines now spend weeks or even months answering individual questionnaires and calculating CO2 emissions using different reporting methods imposed by customers,” says Hourcade.

Hourcade sees the new RP as a good first step towards global harmonization of carbon footprint measurement, but additional work needs to be done to maximize the benefits, she emphasizes.

Continued engagement with regulators and industry groups will be crucial to get the RP supported by the entire global air cargo community. Hourcade concedes that global harmonization is a challenging mission due to the vast multitude of calculators that are currently used and the large number of stakeholders involved – end consumers, airlines, shippers, freight forwarders, trucking companies, shipping lines, rail operators and regulators at local, regional and global levels.

“We have to align small and medium-size players with multinationals and companies from all over the world. It will take time, so we need to do it step by step.”

IATA’s Recommended Practice 1678 CO2 Emissions Measurement Methodology was adopted in March 2014:

Text by Silja Kudel
Photo by iStock


Published June 26, 2014

Category: Environment, Finnair Cargo