ICAO states agree “aspirational goal” to cut aviation CO2 emissions

Governments of countries across the world have signed up to an “aspirational” pledge to cut carbon emissions from aviation. 

Member states of the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), meeting in Montreal, adopted a collective long-term global aspirational goal (LTAG) of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, ICAO announced on October 7, 2022.  

This will be achieved by multiple measures to reduce CO2 emissions, such as “the accelerated adoption of new and innovative aircraft technologies, streamlined flight operations, and the increased production and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF)”, ICAO said in a statement.

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The decision by world governments comes after similar pledges by airlines and industry groups. 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 290 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic, agreed its own resolution in October 2021 to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 and said the ICAO goal should not be underestimated.  

“The aviation industry’s commitment to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 requires supportive government policies,” IATA Director General Wille Walsh said in a statement.  “Now that governments and industry are both focused on net zero by 2050, we expect much stronger policy initiatives in key areas of decarbonization such as incentivizing the production capacity of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF).” 

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An empty goal?  

However, European clean transport campaign group Transport & Environment described the ICAO goal as “empty” and criticized changes to the Corsia carbon offsetting scheme.  

“This is not the aviation’s Paris agreement moment. Let’s not pretend that a non-binding goal will get aviation down to zero,” commented Jo Dardenne, aviation director at T&E. 

ICAO said the goal was agreed after two weeks of “intensive diplomacy” by over 2,500 delegates from 184 States and 57 organizations at the 41st ICAO Assembly. The Assembly occurs at least every three years to set the worldwide policy of the Organization.  

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“States’ adoption of this new long term goal for decarbonized air transport, following the similar commitments from industry groups, will contribute importantly to the green innovation and implementation momentum which must be accelerated over the coming decades to ultimately achieve emissions free powered flight,” Salvatore Sciacchitano, President of the ICAO Council, said in the statement.  


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