India’s carbon emissions from airline operations show small increase in 2013 but fuel efficiency improves

India’s carbon emissions from airline operations show small increase in 2013 but fuel efficiency improves | India,Air India,Jet Airways

Air India now has 17 fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliners in its fleet (photo: Boeing)

Thu 27 Nov 2014 – Carbon emissions from Indian and foreign airlines rose 1.57% in 2013 to 15.63 million tonnes, although down from 16.33 million tonnes in 2011 when India’s civil aviation authority (DGCA) first started measuring the sector’s carbon footprint. The total last year represents less than 1% of the country’s anthropogenic emissions, significantly lower than the corresponding global total of 2-3%. Despite the increase in emissions, the carbon efficiency of Indian scheduled passenger airlines improved from 0.99 kgs of CO2 per revenue tonne kilometre in 2012 to 0.96 in 2013, which compares to a global average for the sector of 0.95 last measured in 2011. The DGCA estimates emissions may nearly double to 28 million tons by 2020 in the absence of further efficiency improvements, given the fast growth of the Indian air transport market.


India’s more than 100 airports handled around 170 million passengers in the 2013/14 fiscal year, says the DGCA in its ‘Carbon Footprint of Indian Aviation 2013’ report just published, and expects domestic and international passenger traffic to grow at annual rates of 12% and 8% respectively to become the third largest market in the world by 2020.


“India’s aviation industry significantly contributes to the development of the country, but inevitably also leads to environmental challenges, especially regarding climate change,” says the report. “In order to formulate an effective policy to address the challenge of climate change, an important requirement is to determine the sources and level of aviation’s CO2 emissions, identify trends and make predictions about future growth.”


Emissions data for the 2013 report came from six Indian scheduled passenger airlines – Air India Group, Jet Airways, JetLite, IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir – plus four joint venture airports (Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai). Together with a seventh new start-up airline, Air Costa, the airlines were responsible for the transportation of more than 61,400,000 domestic passengers in 2013.


In accordance with reporting international emissions separately, those from Indian scheduled passenger airlines, as well as foreign scheduled airlines, to international destinations from India for 2013 reached 6,472,000 tonnes of CO2, a small decline of around 1% compared to 2012 and a 1.89% fall from a peak of 6,597,000 tonnes recorded in 2011.


The overall rise in reported emissions in 2013 over the previous year can partly be explained by a 3.61% increase in aircraft movements, which was offset by a decrease in carbon emissions per aircraft movement of 0.22%. Passenger numbers in 2013 grew by 6.42% over 2012, although average carbon emissions per passenger decreased by 2.86% – from 158.3 kgs to 153.8 kgs.


According to the DGCA, the best performing airline in terms of improving fuel and carbon efficiency was Jet Airways, with smaller improvements by SpiceJet, GoAir and the Air India Group, and small performance declines by IndiGo and Jet Lite. “Some Indian scheduled passenger airlines are below the global average, while others are above, suggesting there is room for further improvements in efficiency,” says the report.


The DGCA attributes the recent improvements to newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft joining Indian fleets, such as the Boeing 787 with Air India and the Bombardier Q400s operated by SpiceJet, along with the fitting of fuel-saving devices such as sharklets and winglets on narrow-body Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Other initiatives noted in the report include engine washing by Air India, single-engine taxi procedures by Blue Dart, onboard weight reductions by Jet Airways and fuel management improvements made by SpiceJet.


Also covered are air navigation services initiatives such the Future India Air Navigation programme and the Indian Ocean Strategic Partnership to Reduce Emissions (INSPIRE).


Biofuels have been identified as a major vehicle for reducing CO2 emissions, says the report, which have the additional advantages of bringing the possibility of local production of feedstocks such as jatropha, along with a reduction in fuel price volatility and the reliance on fossil fuels. There has been some encouraging progress, says the DGCA, such as the development by the Hydroprocessing Lab at the Indian Institute of Petroleum of jet fuel from jatropha for engine testing that meets international specifications. Both Jet Airways and Air India have plans to use biofuel on a domestic demonstration flight, it reports, acknowledging the “significant challenges” involved in technology adoption and feedstock supplies.


Given the substantial expected growth of Indian aviation and the accompanied growth in CO2 emissions, the DGCA proposes a number of actions including further development of the annual carbon footprint report, the dissemination of information and reporting on emissions, and the holding of regular workshops for Indian airlines and airport operators. This should be used, it recommends, to promote increased awareness concerning aviation’s role in climate change, improve data collection procedures, identify areas for efficiency interventions and encourage collaboration and close cooperation amongst stakeholders to achieve emissions reductions.


The DGCA also notes the decision by ICAO to develop a global market-based measure for international aviation emissions for approval at the next Assembly and implementation from 2020. However, it says, “it should be ensured that [the] specific conditions of India – like [the] growth of its aviation market and level of development – are taken into consideration in order to meet both its development and environmental protection aspirations.”




DGCA – Carbon Footprint of Indian Aviation 2013 report



Breakdown of CO2 emissions 2011-13 (source: India DGCA)






Projected growth in aviation CO2 emissions to 2050 (source: India DGCA)








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