Global Aviation’s Interim Emission Reduction Goal: A Step Towards Cleaner Skies

Over 100 nations convened on Friday and agreed to a preliminary goal for reducing global aviation emissions by 2030 through the use of less polluting fuels. However, China, Russia, and a few others expressed concerns about the economic impact. The goal, established after five days of U.N.-led discussions in Dubai, aims for a 5% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 through the use of cleaner energy sources like sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The U.S. stated that this goal sends a "clear and positive signal" to the financial sector, which needs to invest in new clean energy projects. Aviation contributes to an estimated 2-3% of global carbon emissions. SAF is crucial in reducing these emissions, but it is expensive and currently makes up less than 1% of total global jet fuel. The aviation industry is not directly covered by the Paris Agreement on combating climate change, but it has pledged to align itself with global goals by setting a target of net zero emissions by 2050.


This week's aviation talks, which involved the same countries participating in the upcoming COP28, provided an early indication of the potential for further collaboration. The agreement was reached after debates over the wording, particularly regarding the transfer of technology that emerging economies, including African nations, want to increase their SAF production capacity.

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However, some countries expressed their reservations. China, which aims for carbon neutrality by 2060, stated that the goal would significantly increase airline operating costs and pose a threat to energy and food security in developing countries. Saudi Arabia and Iraq, two major Middle East oil producers, and OPEC members, objected to both the target and the date. Environmentalists criticized the agreement for lacking enforcement mechanisms and allowing airlines to use lower-carbon fossil fuels.

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The aviation industry estimates that achieving the sector's net zero emissions goal will require between $1.45 trillion and $3.2 trillion for SAF capital development. Making financing more accessible to developing countries, another conference goal is necessary to increase SAF production outside regions like the U.S. and Europe. Kenya, for example, needs financing to study the economic benefits of domestic SAF production and to use an old refinery in Mombasa to produce the fuel.

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