Climate change is a critical challenge for the aviation industry. We need to fly sustainably while allowing as many people as possible to enjoy the benefits of air travel.
The aviation industry is working across the air transport industry towards an ambitious goal: net-zero carbon by 2050. New technologies as well as sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) will eventually help cut emissions by around 80%. We also work on optimizing air routes and avoiding congestion around airports, obliging aircraft to stay in the air until a landing slot is available. And we help airlines manage their environmental impact by reducing noise and waste.
And finally, we support offsetting, a system that allows a company to compensate for its emissions by financing a reduction in emissions elsewhere. Currently, airplanes have no choice but to use liquid fuels until SAF is more widely available. But through offsetting, we can pay for emissions to be reduced in other parts of the economy.
You can also contribute to reducing your carbon footprint when traveling by air. There are simple things you can do from offsetting your flight emissions to packing lighter. Check out the frequently asked questions below.
Frequently Asked Questions
I want to do my bit for a sustainable future. Should I fly less?
Aviation accounts for 3% of global carbon emissions, but supports 3.5% of global GDP and 63 million jobs. So the question is, would stopping flying be the best way to reduce emissions, while safeguarding our way of life? Everyone has to make their own choice. As an industry, we can point to a track record of reducing emissions per passenger that goes back to the beginning of jet flight. And we were the first global industry to set tough carbon targets, with our objective to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
It is also worth noting that about 80% of aviation's CO2 emissions occur on flights over 1,500 km, where there is no other transportation alternative. And this is the reason why developing the production and use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels is critical to reaching Net Zero.
Is Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) truly a sustainable solution?
There are at least two major reasons to consider Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) a sustainable solution.
First, it can significantly lower the aviation carbon footprint. Compared to fossil jet fuel, from the beginning of its production to the moment it is used, SAF can produce up to 80% less CO2 emissions. That means that when SAF is burned, it still releases carbon emissions, but these have been recycled from existing carbon sources like municipal waste or used cooking oil. As a result, the increase of the overall level of CO2 in the atmosphere is very limited.
Second, the criteria for a fuel to be labeled "sustainable" are very strict and agreed at international level. For instance, SAF cannot be made from food crops, cannot destroy forests nor hamper water quality and availability.
Possible sources for SAF are numerous: solid waste from homes and businesses like paper and food scraps, rotation crops, algae and much much more. Watch this video to find out about surprising sources for SAF.
How does aviation plan to achieve Net Zero Carbon Emissions?
We plan to meet the Net-Zero objective through a combination of maximum elimination of emissions, with offsetting and new technologies. By 2050, we plan to achieve:
- 65% usage of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), sourced from feedstocks that do not degrade the environment or compete with food or water
- 13% investment in new aircraft technology, including new aerodynamic and alternative propulsion (electric or hydrogen) solutions
- 3% improvement in air traffic management (more direct routes, less congestion at airports generating prolonged flying times)
- 19% usage of offsets (compensation) particularly to invest in carbon capture and carbon storage technologies
For more information, please visit the Fly Net Zero page.
What does Net Zero actually mean?
What is net zero? Put simply, net zero means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere, by oceans and forests for instance. For the industry, the Net Zero commitment implies that the airline industry will eliminate 21.2 gigatons of carbon by 2050, which corresponds to the 2021-2050 emissions on a ‘business as usual’ trajectory. This will allow airlines to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 to align with the Paris Agreement goal for global warming not to exceed 1.5°C.
Our strategy is to eliminate as much CO2 as possible from fuel, aircraft technology, actual flying, and develop new zero-emissions energy sources such as electric and hydrogen power. And those emissions that cannot be eliminated will be compensated by funding carbon capture and storage solutions and by offsetting schemes.
Why offset carbon and how does it work?
You can fly without increasing your own overall carbon footprint by compensating for emissions created when you travel. This is done by contributing the fee that your budget allows to fund an environmental program. Most airlines offer this service when you purchase your ticket.
And if your airline doesn’t offer this service, there are many carbon offsetting schemes available, ranging from wind and solar projects to reforestation efforts. We recommend you select a fund that has the Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard or Quality Assurance Standard (QAS) to ensure the environmental integrity of the scheme.
In addition, IATA developed CO2Connect, an online tool which provides the most accurate CO2 emission calculations for any given commercial passenger flight. IATA CO2 Connect responds to the growing demand for CO2 data transparency linked to airline specific and actual fuel burn information and load factors.
Can packing lighter make a difference?
Absolutely! Packing just a kilo less, when multiplied across every passenger and every flight, can make a huge difference to a flight CO2 emissions. For example, if every passenger flying from Heathrow to Frankfurt in one year packs one less pair of jeans (1 kg) and one less pair of shoes (0.5kg), they would save 81 tonnes of CO2.
If we all pack lighter for every flight, just imagine the difference we could make.