Aviation is aware of its commitment to tackling climate change, but others must support our efforts and work together for a sustainable air transport industry

Alexandre de Juniac: Changing times

Recent months have seen enormous numbers of people marching on the streets calling for action on the climate crisis. It is encouraging to see growing and passionate awareness of this critical issue. Civil society is speaking loudly. And the message they are delivering to governments is that they want climate action.

That message is familiar to aviation. It has been over a decade since the industry united to agree targets to reduce our carbon footprint. Our first commitment was to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5% annually to 2020. From 2020 we committed to carbon-neutral growth, and by 2050 we committed to cut our net emissions in half compared to 2005. This commitment was cutting edge— aligning with the Paris climate agreement five years later.

Many targets have been set in the face of the climate challenge. Aviation is the rare case where they are being met.

The carbon footprint of the average journey today is half what it was three decades ago. With the help of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA)emissions from international flights will be capped at 2020 levels. And we are scoping the path to our 2050 goal with a key focus on sustainable aviation fuels.

Many targets have been set in the face of the climate challenge. Aviation is the rare case where they are being met

We can be proud of our achievements and future ambition. In doing so, must also acknowledge the vital role of governments. Our efforts will only be successful if they are supported by government policies. That’s why our industry has been on its own climate action march for well over a decade.

The most recent chapter in that story was the outcome of the 40th ICAO Assembly as governments reaffirmed their support for CORSIA. And they agreed to start looking at a long-term goal—which should help us in our mission to halve emissions. Aviation is a responsible industry that is working to ensure long-term sustainability. That fact is not known broadly-enough, which enables some to mis-characterize aviation as a villain and call for a dramatic reduction in flying—irrespective of the heavy social and economic costs that would bring.

All industries must be accountable for the carbon we emit. Aviation has a good technical and policy track record. But outside of aviation circles, awareness of what aviation is doing on sustainability is thin. Addressing the climate crisis is not a communications problem, but to ensure that governments take the right measures to make aviation sustainable, awareness is critical. Building that awareness needs effective communications that goes beyond to the general public.

Aviation has a solid record of achievement and is on the right course to sustainability. People need to be aware of this so that the public marching for climate action can focus governments on supporting real solutions for aviation like sustainable fuels.

Over the next months, IATA will roll out tools and resources to help the industry add this critical dimension to our sustainably efforts. 

Alexandre de Juniac: Director General and CEO, IATA