The International Air Transport Association and the Airports Council International (ACI) World are among the signatories to a vow to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement objective for climate change.
The initiative’s goal is to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The goal, according to IATA, will be a “huge challenge” for the sector, which must progressively reduce emissions while accommodating the growing demand of a world eager to fly. According to the association, at least 1.8 gigatons of carbon must be abated in 2050 to meet the needs of the 10 billion people who are scheduled to fly. Furthermore, the net-zero pledge means that between now and 2050, a total of 21.2 gigatons of carbon will be avoided.
The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation will be used to help the industry attain net-zero emissions (CORSIA). According to IATA, this will stabilize international emissions in the short to medium term at 2019 levels.
The target, according to ACI World, will be met through a variety of measures, including support for new aircraft technologies like hydrogen and electric, as well as improvements in operational efficiency and infrastructure. According to the council, accelerating the development of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) will play a key role in decreasing aviation’s environmental effect. Any remaining emissions will be captured by carbon removal measures.
Around 65 % of the 1.8 gigatons of carbon anticipated to be created by aviation in 2050 might be saved if SAFs were used, whereas 13 % could be avoided if new propulsion technologies like hydrogen were used. Another 3 % will be saved through efficiency improvements, 11% will be saved through carbon capture, and 8 % will be saved through offsets according to Willie Walsh, IATA’s director-general.
The exact split, as well as the path to get there, will be determined by whatever options are the most cost-effective at any given time. Whatever the final path to net-zero is, it is undeniable that the only way to get there will be for the value chain and governments to play their roles.
Corporate travel buyers have created the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance to invest in SAFs, while a handful of airlines have promised to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The World Travel and Tourism Council recently published a roadmap for the global tourism industry to meet its sustainability goals.