Global sustainability efforts got a boost recently with an International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreement to cut shipping’s carbon emissions in half by 2050. It’s an ambitious target and we should applaud the IMO for its leadership on the critical issue of climate change.
The aviation sector knows how challenging it is to forge a global agreement of this nature. The aviation industry’s commitment to cap CO2 emissions from 2020 and to cut them in half by 2050 was a hard-won prize—even if the motivating factors were extremely powerful. As global industries we need consistent global frameworks in which to efficiently focus our sustainability efforts.
The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) was agreed by states through the leadership of the International Civil Aviation Organization. Coming into effect from 2020, governments are busy ironing out the final technical details as airlines prepare for reporting requirements which commence next year.
On that time table, aviation will be the first global industry to be pursuing carbon neutral growth. We will be proud of that, but we want to do more. CORSIA is a concrete midway point on aviation’s journey towards its 2050 goal—which is halving emissions compared to 2005 levels. While offsetting is an important tool in achieving that, aviation’s ultimate sustainability goal is to reduce emissions through improvements in technology, sustainable aviation fuels, operations and infrastructure.
That aviation and shipping are both looking to 2050 to make similar emissions cuts is more a result of coincidence than coordination. But it is clear that mobility industries like aviation and shipping are taking a leadership role in combatting climate change.
What’s happening in the automotive industry is also impressive. You cannot help but notice the rapidly expanding numbers of hybrid and fully electric cars on the road today. What you might not notice, however, is the tremendous support that governments are making available to support this important change.
I wish that I could say the same for aviation. Sustainable aviation fuels have big potential, but unfortunately a big cost. We know that from the many thousands of flights that have been using them. But we have not yet found the tool to unlock their full potential by increasing production volumes and reducing the production costs.
That could be changing. The US has led the way with a policy framework to encourage an increase in the production of sustainable aviation fuels. And Europe is considering a set of measures. Governments have set the policy framework for carbon reductions. And it is good to see governments taking on their role in incentivizing transformative technology. We see the positive results of that each day on the road—and I hope that we will soon see it in the air and on the seas.
Mobility is critical to modern economies. And the good news for us all is that mobility—in all its forms—is fully focused and committed to a sustainable future.