Flight Global

There was elation and relief when the 41st General Assembly of ICAO adopted a long-term aspirational goal of net-zero carbon emissions from air transport by 2050.

There was also a heightened sense of urgency across the aviation sector, for while the majority of ICAO member states agreed on an outcome which aligned with the Paris climate target, they did not address just how net zero would be achieved by 2050.

That is the job of individual nations, which must now consider and deliver policies and incentives to expedite aviation’s decarbonisation. That is an enormous and expensive task, which even the most optimistic concede will be a steep challenge, made harder by worsening global economic conditions and unstable geopolitics. 

It will also be a very disjointed process, as priorities, capabilities and timeframes differ markedly between developed and developing nations.

All the while, as efforts are made to reduce aviation’s carbon emissions through new technologies, government policies and operating practices, air travel will continue to grow. IATA expects that passenger journeys will more than double from the 4.5 billion taken in 2019, pre-pandemic, to around 10 billion in 2050.

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