“Historic” agreement reached for the aeronautical industry to completely decarbonize by 2050

Representatives from 193 countries have agreed in the Canadian city of Montreal to try to achieve net zero carbon emissions in air travel by 2050, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The airline industry faces increasing pressure to address its outsized role in the climate crisis. (Twitter/@icao)

Members of the UN aviation agency have set the year 2050 as the goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions for air travel – an industry often criticized for its outsized role in the climate crisis.

The assembly, which brought together representatives of 193 nations at the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal on Friday, reached a “historic agreement on an ambitious collective long-term goal of net zero carbon by 2050! ICAO declared the Twitter.

He added that he “continues to advocate for much more ambition and investment from states to ensure that aviation is fully decarbonized by 2050 or earlier.”

“It’s an excellent result,” a diplomatic source told AFP news agency, revealing that only four countries – including China, the main driver of global air transport growth – “had expressed reservations”.

The agreement, however, was far from satisfying some non-governmental organizations who complained that it did not go far enough and was not legally binding.

Massive investments to decarbonize aviation

The airline industry faces increasing pressure to address its outsized role in the climate crisis.

Currently responsible for 2.5 to 3% of global CO2 emissions, the sector’s transition to renewable fuels is proving difficult, even if the aeronautics industry and energy companies are seeking progress.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said airlines were “strongly encouraged” by the adoption of the climate target, a year after IATA endorsed the same position at its own general meeting.

IATA Director General Willie Walsh said now “we expect much stronger policy initiatives in key areas of decarbonization, such as incentivizing production capacity for sustainable aviation fuels” .

According to the airlines, it will take massive investments – $1.55 trillion between 2021 and 2050 – to decarbonize aviation.

“The global aviation community welcomes this historic agreement,” said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director of Airports Council International, which represents 1,950 airports in 185 countries.

“This is a watershed moment in the effort to decarbonize the aviation sector, with governments and industry now moving in the same direction, with a common policy framework,” he said. in a press release.

The agreement is non-binding

The French Minister in charge of Transport, Clément Beaune, welcomed “a major step forward”, saying on Twitter that “there will be no future for the plane without decarbonization” and that it was “proud to have led this fight with my European counterparts”. .”

Planes in general draw particularly harsh criticism because only around 11% of the world’s population flies each year, according to a widely cited 2018 study by Nordic researchers.

Moreover, 50% of airline emissions come from the top 1% of travelers, he found.

“Now is not the time for the Paris aviation agreement. Let’s not pretend that a non-binding target will bring aviation down to zero,” said Jo Dardenne of the NGO Transport & Environment.

She also expressed disappointment with the lackluster adjustments envisioned by delegates to the sector’s carbon offsetting and reduction scheme, known as CORSIA.

During the 10-day meeting, Russia had sought but failed to secure enough votes to be re-elected to the ICAO’s governing body, which is responsible for ensuring compliance with aviation rules. .

Moscow has been accused of breaking international rules by registering hundreds of Russian-leased planes rather than returning them, as required by sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine in February.

The ICAO general assembly was the first since the start of the pandemic, which had brought the airline industry to its knees. In 2021, passenger numbers were only half of the 4.5 billion in 2019, marking a slight rebound from the 60% year-on-year decline in 2020.

The sector hopes that 2022 will attract 83% of its customer levels from three years ago and return to profitability worldwide next year.

Source: AFP