International Air Transport Association (IATA)

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Montreal, Canada

Climate Lobbying Overview: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is actively lobbying against ambitious climate policy for aviation at global, regional, and national levels. While IATA in 2021 announced support for net-zero global aviation carbon emissions by 2050 for the first time, it has historically used its support for the global CORSIA offsetting scheme, which it appears to have led lobbying efforts to weaken in 2020, to oppose more stringent regional and national climate regulation for aviation, including jet fuel taxes and the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading System.

Top-line Messaging on Climate Policy: IATA appears to have mixed top-line messaging on climate policy, with evidence of increasingly positive positioning in 2021. IATA appears to have historically supported a top-line 50% reduction in global aviation emissions by 2050 since 2009. However, in October 2021 IATA for the first time announced support for net-zero global aviation emissions by 2050 through an AGM resolution, and urged ICAO member states to support a “long-term goal equivalent to the ambition of the industry”. An October 2021 press release further appeared supportive of the goals of the Paris Agreement and its 1.5C global warming target.

IATA appears to prioritize economic and competitiveness concerns over IPCC-aligned emissions reductions, for example emphasizing the need to “preserve the competitiveness of airlines” and minimize market distortions when designing climate policy in a 2020 EU consultation response, preferring global offsetting measures to regulate aviation emissions. Furthermore, IATA’s former CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, in October 2020 used the COVID-19 pandemic to oppose the introduction of any new environmental taxes. Similarly, an October 2021 IATA press release appeared to oppose “retrograde and punitive taxes” on aviation, prioritizing the role of “incentives” over more stringent climate regulations.

IATA has consistently communicated opposition to ambitious regional and national climate legislation for aviation, including in multiple 2020 policy papers and in an October 2021 press release, arguing that aviation emissions should only be addressed via global policy measures. Particularly, IATA appears to have used its support of the global CORSIA offsetting scheme to actively oppose more stringent EU climate measures for aviation in an EU 2020 consultation response, similarly arguing that “success of CORSIA may be jeopardized by the individual policies of some states” in a 2020 policy paper. Furthermore, in a 2019 ICAO working paper, IATA argued CORSIA “avoids the need for duplicative or overlapping carbon pricing measures to be applied to international aviation emissions on a regional, national or subnational basis”.

Engagement with Climate-Related Regulations: IATA appears to have opposed various strands of climate legislation for aviation at national and regional levels since 2019. IATA has consistently supported ICAO’s CORSIA offsetting scheme under which airlines must buy offsets for emissions beyond the average baseline emissions of 2019, and/or use ‘CORSIA eligible’ fuels (a voluntary scheme until 2027), as the “only market-based measure” that should apply to international flights. However, in March 2020 IATA first proposed weakening the CORSIA offsetting scheme in a policy paper by changing CORSIA’s baseline date, which once agreed reduced the amount of emissions airlines would have to offset and effectively delayed the scheme’s introduction until aviation emissions return to pre-pandemic levels. IATA also appeared to lobby the EU in a private meeting in April 2020 to support changing CORSIA’s baseline date.

Since 2019, IATA has consistently opposed the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and supported its replacement with CORSIA, including in a February 2020 meeting with EU Commission staff and a July 2021 press release. Similarly, in its 2020 response to an EU ETS consultation, IATA appeared to oppose the application of the EU ETS to aviation, questioned its legality, rejected a reduction in free aviation emissions allowances, and supported its complete replacement with CORSIA. Additionally, in a private meeting with EU DG Clima officials in April 2020, IATA lobbied policymakers to provide flexibility with EU ETS compliance for the aviation industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

IATA also appeared unsupportive of an EU blending mandate for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) in a 2020 EU consultation response, emphasizing cost concerns. Furthermore, in a February 2020 meeting with EU DG Transport officials, IATA stressed that blending mandates may affect EU airline competitiveness. However, in March 2021 comments in Euractiv, IATA appeared to take a more mixed position, supporting an EU SAF mandate “to intra-EU flights only in the first phase, with a potential to be extended in a second phase”. Similarly, a July 2021 press release states support for an EU SAF mandate with numerous exceptions including that it is accompanied by policies to ensure a competitive market and production incentives. An IATA ‘Fact Sheet’ from 2020 also asserts that “offsetting is more effective than a tax” and that carbon taxes cannot guarantee emissions reductions.

Positioning on Energy Transition: The International Air Transport Association in 2019-21 has actively opposed numerous measures to decarbonize aviation. In 2020, an IATA press release appeared to oppose ticket taxes on flights in France and the UK. Similarly, in a 2019 ICAO working paper, IATA opposed the introduction of any ticket taxes in states covered by CORSIA. A position paper from IATA in 2020 further argued that taxes on aviation “have negative impacts on the environment, passengers and the economy”. In a 2020 EU consultation, IATA further opposed the introduction of an EU jet fuel tax to help decarbonize aviation, questioning its legality. In July 2021, an IATA press release further stated opposition to an EU jet fuel tax. IATA in 2020 also actively opposed the introduction of green conditionality attachments to COVID-19 related bailouts to the aviation industry, with its former Director-General stating, “it’s no time for requirements”.