Climate Action

Aviation industry takes important step towards reducing emissions

The UN’s official aviation agency has approved standards to ensure the industry can implement carbon reduction measures.

  • 28 June 2018
  • Adam Wentworth

The UN’s official aviation agency has approved standards to ensure the industry can implement carbon reduction measures.

The standards were signed off at a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal this week. They are designed to support the industry in its preparations to comprehensively report on its carbon emissions and make the transition to low-emission fuels.

The standards follow a landmark deal signed in 2016 by the 192 member states of the ICAO, designed to control the level of carbon dioxide emissions in the global aviation sector. From next year, airlines will begin to report on their fuel and carbon emissions for the first time. This will lead to a five-year voluntary period, starting in 2021, where the industry will make wholesale changes to its fuel consumption, away from fossil fuels, and towards sustainable alternatives. However, the council is yet to agree which fuels will be accepted under a new sustainability criteria.

From 2027 onwards the rulings will become mandatory across the entire aviation sector. Compliance is expected to cost less than 2 percent of revenue, according to the Reuters news agency.

The ICAO’s Council President Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu that gaining agreement on the new standards was “critical” to helping states and airlines ensure they can make the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme work.

“This especially pertains to its monitoring, reporting and verification scheme, which describes in detail what has to be done, by whom, starting with the collection of information on international aviation CO2 emissions by airlines as of January 2019,” he added. 

The ICAO’s Secretary General Fang Liu said that “significant effort was made at the global-level” to ensure the rulings were adopted in such a limited timeframe.

President Aliu concluded: “Aviation has now set out not only its climate change goals, but also the means to achieve them. The progress achieved today is a clear demonstration of the unwavering commitment, on behalf of both governments and airlines, to minimize the future impact of international aviation on the global climate."