International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Member States have marked a milestone moment by adopting a collective long-term global aspirational goal (LTAG) of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – a move that has been welcomed by ACI World and ACI Asia-Pacific.
The new LTAG was a culmination of two weeks of ‘intensive diplomacy’ by over 2,500 delegates (including ministers, directors general of civil aviation, and senior policy and decision makers) from 184 states and 57 organisations at the 41st ICAO Triennial Assembly, which took place from 27 September to 7 October at the ICAO headquarters in Montréal, Canada.
Achieving the LTAG will rely on the combined effect of a number of CO2 emissions reduction measures.
These include: the accelerated adoption of new and innovative aircraft technologies; streamlined flight operations; and the increased production and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).
“States’ adoption of this new long term goal for decarbonised air transport, following the similar commitments from industry groups, will contribute importantly to the green innovation and implementation momentum which must be accelerated over the coming decades to ultimately achieve emissions free powered flight,” said Salvatore Sciacchitano, President of the ICAO Council.
“Countries have achieved some tremendous and very important diplomatic progress at this event, and on topics of crucial importance to the future sustainability of our planet and the air transport system which serves and connects its populations,” added ICAO Secretary General Juan Carlos Salazar.
States at the Assembly highlighted the importance of viable financing and investment support in working toward the goal and requested that a third ICAO Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels be convened in 2023 to accelerate work in that area.
The landmark agreement has been welcomed by Airports Council International (ACI) World with its Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira describing it as a “watershed moment in the effort to decarbonise the aviation sector with both governments and industry now heading in the same direction, with a common policy framework”.
“However, this agreement doesn’t stop there,” continued Felipe de Oliveira. “This is the launching point to accelerate collaboration between industry and governments.”
In the lead up to the Assembly, ACI had been preparing its advocacy positions and engagement strategy to represent its members’ needs under the theme: #All4one Aviation Ecosystem.
“We now need regulators to support airports’ work to develop and implement their decarbonisation action plans, as well as support increased collaboration among all stakeholders to increase the availability of renewable energy, finance, new technologies, to support capacity building, and to address operational and infrastructure adaptations,” he said.
“Air transport needs to decarbonise so it can continue to connect people, economies, ideas, culture, and business – providing substantial socioeconomic benefits – for generations to come.
“The world’s biggest challenges will also require people to come together like never before and aviation will continue to facilitate this while delivering its own sustainability goals.
“On a global scale, airports and ACI remain fully committed to reach this net zero goal and we look forward to collaboration across the aviation community to reach this.
“The road ahead will be challenging, but if we act and support each other as one aviation ecosystem, we can make this a reality.
“This is the sector that made humans fly, we can make this happen – with governments and industry working together.”
ACI Asia-Pacific also spoke out in support of the new goal.
“As a voice of 127 airport members, operating 618 airports across 46 countries, ACI Asia-Pacific welcomes governments’ support to adopt the 2050 net-zero carbon goal for air transport,” said Stefano Baronci, Director General ACI Asia-Pacific.
“This is a landmark decision for our industry, and this commitment from the states is essential for achieving net zero emission.
“As we move forward, it is vital that we explore innovative solutions to address environmental challenges, and ACI Asia-Pacific and its airports members and World Business Partners commit to enhance their partnership with all aviation stakeholders in order to mitigate climate change in the region.”
ACI Asia-Pacific unanimously passed a resolution in May this year, by urging all its members to voluntarily commit to achieve net zero carbon emissions and develop action plans to meet this goal by proactively undertaking necessary steps to reduce emissions by using low carbon technologies in airport operations and infrastructure management.
Airports in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East responded positively, with several advancing their net zero targets before 2050.
Carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the operation of international flights are addressed collectively under the Chicago Convention and the associated agreements states arrive at via their diplomatic consensus at ICAO.
Those from domestic air operations are covered under states’ Paris Agreement commitments (the international treaty on climate change to limit global warming to well below 2° C, and preferably to 1.5° C, compared to pre-industrial levels).