(1) From now until 2020: 1.5% efficiency improvement per year

The industry is using a four-pillar strategy (see below) to further increase its fuel efficiency by a further 17% over the coming decade. One of the most important parts of that strategy is the introduction of new technology – the biggest impact of which comes through replacement of older aircraft in the fleet with newer, more efficient ones. This is not cheap. To keep to the 1.5% fleet efficiency improvement target, the world’s airlines will need to purchase around 12,000 new aircraft by 2020 at an estimated cost of $1.3 trillion.

(2) From 2020: Capping emissions growth from aviation

While emissions will continue to grow until 2020, the aviation sector has agreed to cap its net emissions at the 2020 level. From this point on, any emissions the aviation industry is unable to reduce through operational, technological or infrastructure measures, or by using biofuels, will need to be offset by market based measures.

(3) By 2050: halving net emissions based on 2005 levels

After 2020, the industry will start seeing some of the large emission reduction efforts made possible by the advanced technology mentioned in the Beginner’s Guide to Aviation Efficiency. By this time, sustainable biofuels will be well established and the necessary supply chain will begin to deliver large volumes of low-carbon fuel to the airlines. These two major factors, as well as continuing work on infrastructure and operations efficiency, will allow the industry to aim for the most ambitious goal: to ensure that net carbon emissions from aviation in 2050 will be half of what they were in 2005, or 318.5 million tonnes of carbon, despite the growth in passenger numbers.

These targets are explained by the Executive Director of ATAG, Paul Steele, in this video:


Four steps to cutting aviation CO2

Improved technology. Each generation of aircraft is 20% more fuel efficient, and over the next decade airlines will invest $1.3 trillion in new planes. Sustainable biofuels, available in the next few years, will have the potential to cut emissions by up to 80%.

More efficient operations. We’re making the current fleet lighter and more efficient† and using new air traffic control techniques to save emissions. For example, landing using a ‘Continuous Descent Approach’ saves at least 150kg of CO2 per flight.

Better use of new infrastructure. Shortening flying times by a minute saves at least 100kg of CO2 per flight. Since 2004, we have saved over 34 million tonnes of CO2 by optimising over 2000 routes. Reformed air traffic management systems in the United States and Europe will significantly cut emissions.

Smart economic measures. Economic measures are a part of our strategy until technology and more efficient operations achieve our targets. Governments must agree to a global framework that accounts for emissions only once and ensures that passengers do not face multiple layers of taxation.

An industry united

When the world’s governments gathered in Kyoto in 1997 to negotiate how the global community would limit climate change, negotiators recognised the difficulties in dealing with aviation emissions. Along with international shipping, the emissions from aviation take place over international waters and are most often not confined to the borders of a single country. With this in mind and the growing need for all parts of the economy to play their role in reducing emissions, the aviation industry has taken the unprecedented step of setting three global commitments for reducing its emissions.

Download the 2008 aviation industry declaration on climate action 


Beginner's Guide to Aviation Biofuels
Industry position paper for UNFCCC meetings 
Aviation: the real world wide web
ICAO Act Global page 
Aviation industry submission to ICAO 37th Assembly, October 2010 
ICAO Resolution 37-19, October 2010