ICAO Carbon-Cut Plan Will Mask Emissions Output: Engineer

A metric proposed as part of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s plan to curb greenhouse gases in the airline industry will mask the actual emissions of aircraft, according to an aeronautical engineer.

The proposal uses a plane’s maximum take-off weight, a certification level known as MTOW, to help determine emissions and whether the aircraft is efficient enough to fly, said Dimitri Simos, founder of Lissys Ltd., an airline-engineering software company near Leicester, England, whose clients have included Boeing Co. and Airbus. Lissys’s Piano software has been approved under ICAO’s models for determining fuel burn.

“It is physically impossible to divine a meaningful weight for CO2 assessments from certification restrictions alone, as ICAO’s metric implicitly purports to do,” Simos said in a statement on his website. “Using MTOW as a weight determinant of CO2 is scientifically, and surely also legally under any rational system, utterly indefensible.”

The United Nations-overseen organization is seeking to finalize a greenhouse-gas-reduction plan after the European Union from January for the first time included airlines in its carbon market, the world’s biggest by traded volume. Europe can replace its carbon curbs on aviation with a global measure as long as the broader program is as ambitious as the EU plan, Connie Hedegaard, the bloc’s climate chief, said Feb. 17.

ICAO needs to require airlines to use models that measure actual emissions, which need to be based on metrics including an aircraft’s operating empty weight, as well as its engine and aerodynamic characteristics, Simos said.

“The ICAO approach is akin to selecting a basketball team from the general population on the basis of height alone,” he said today by e-mail. “Different aircraft emit CO2 differently in transporting specific payloads over specific ranges.”

ICAO may have proposed its metric because aircraft manufactures and airlines are reluctant to disclose the actual fuel burn and efficiency of their planes, he said.

“They are not willing to give the real performance of aircraft,” he said.

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