Aviation reaches landmark deal on emissions

Following years of wrangling, the aviation industry has finally reached a global agreement aimed at reducing the sector’s impact on the environment.

At its 39th assembly in Montreal, the 191-nation International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – the UN’s aviation body – adopted a global market-based measure aimed at limiting the carbon dioxide emissions of international flights.

Based on a “Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation”, or CORSIA, the initiative is aiming to achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020.

Aviation contributes approximately 2% of global CO2 emissions
Aviation contributes approximately 2% of global CO2 emissions

So far, 65 countries have signalled their interest in participating in the measure from the start. The agreement will be voluntary for the first seven years, but the majority of the world’s large aviation markets are expected to take part.

IATA’s director-general & CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, called it an “historic agreement”.

“This agreement positions aviation to be an engine for achieving reductions in carbon pollution around the globe, while spurring innovations to reduce the sector’s own emissions,” de Juniac said. “ICAO’s action sends a powerful signal worldwide that governments, airlines and the aviation industry, and civil society together are recognising the urgency of climate action.”

Environmental groups offered the scheme a more cautious welcome, however. A statement from the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) called it a “hard-fought political compromise” that “falls short of the goals of carbon-neutral growth from 2020, Paris Agreement goals, and the industry goal of halving emissions from 2050”.

The aviation industry currently contributes approximately 2% of global carbon emissions. It is estimated that the initial commitments from 65 countries would cover approximately 80% of international aviation’s expected emissions growth between 2021 and 2035.

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