Industry goals on climate change 2009-2020
In 2008 the global stakeholder associations of the aviation industry (ACI, CANSO, IATA, ICCAIA), committed to addressing the global challenge of climate change and adopted a set of targets to mitigate CO2 emissions from air transport:
- A cap on net aviation CO2 emissions from 2020 (carbon-neutral growth)
- A reduction in net aviation CO2 emissions of 50% by 2050, relative to 2005 levels
- An average improvement in fuel efficiency (CO2 per Revenue Tonne Kilometre) of 1.5% per year from 2009 to 2020.
The figure below provides an overview of the progress towards the goal on fuel efficiency with an average improvement of 2.0% per year during 2009-2019 compared to a goal of 1.5% (source: IATA).
Destination 2050 – A route to net zero European aviation
In the spring of 2021, five European associations representing airlines, manufacturers, airports, and air service navigation providers published the Destination 2050 report. It outlines a roadmap for the aviation sector, in collaboration with regulators, to decarbonise significantly by 2030 and reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, and has committed the sector to:
- Assessing the feasibility of making 2019 the peak year for absolute CO2 emissions from flights within and departing from the EU.
- Reducing net CO2 emissions from all flights within and departing from the EU by 45% in 2030 compared to the hypothetical reference scenario.
- Reaching net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 from all flights within and departing from the EU.
As illustrated in the figure below, these commitments can be achieved via a combination of measures. Impacts on demand due to the cost implications of the measures and the related CO2 emissions reductions were also considered.
Aircraft and engine technology improvements are expected to include hydrogen-powered aircraft on intra-EU routes from 2035 onwards; a step-change in energy efficiency from new aircraft types in the next ten years; and optimised range and capacity of hybrid-electric aircraft. This will require a high level of technology readiness by 2027–2030, new certification procedures for disruptive technologies, and accelerated fleet renewal.
Improvements in air traffic management and aircraft operations could be realised by 2035 through the implementation of the Single European Sky that moves towards a network-centric and digital ATM system, accelerated innovation and rapid decarbonisation of ground operations.
The supply of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is expected to account for 83% of the total fuel consumption in 2050. However, to make this a reality, SAF production and deployment must be scaled up whilst ensuring robust and transparent sustainability criteria and a diversified and sustainable feedstock base. An increase in the maximum blending ratio from 50 to 100% is also required.
Finally, market-based measures (MBMs) are crucial in the short term (e.g. EU ETS, ICAO CORSIA). By 2030, MBMs could be responsible for 27% of CO2 reductions, while by 2050, as the sector relies more on in-sector reductions, MBMs could be responsible for 8% of CO2 reductions. Until then, the EU ETS should be strengthened to be in line with the Paris Agreement targets and carbon credits under CORSIA must be of the highest quality.
Similar commitments by the aviation sector at the global level have also been made in the ATAG Waypoint 2050 report.