The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently published information confirming that carbon emissions per passenger have declined by more than 50% since 1990.
Much of the improvement has occurred because the industry has achieved an annual fuel efficiency improvement of 2.3% over the period since 2009, some 0.8 percentage points ahead of target. This progress is a combination of investments in more efficient aircraft and operational efficiencies.
According to IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac, cutting per passenger emissions in half is an amazing achievement of the technical expertise and innovation in the aviation industry.
"But we have even bigger ambitions. From 2020 we will cap net emissions. And by 2050 we will cut emissions to half 2005 levels. Accomplishing these targets means continued investment in new technology, sustainable fuels, and operational improvements," he said in a statement.
Airlines have invested some $1 trillion in new aircraft since 2009, and in addition have signed forward purchase agreements for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) amounting to approximately $6 billion.
In addition, the introduction of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) will ensure carbon-neutral growth on international flights from 2020 and raise around $40 billion in climate finance.
Analysis from IATA shows that efforts to deliberately suppress air travel through punitive passenger taxes are inefficient and largely ineffective at reducing carbon. On the other hand, it is of the view that the CORSIA scheme's effectiveness lies in its global scope.
"Governments must focus their efforts correctly. Flying drives prosperity. It is not the enemy. Cutting carbon must at the forefront. And government leadership is needed to incentivize the commercialization of sustainable aviation fuels, drive efficiencies in air traffic management and support research into next generation low-carbon energy sources," said De Juniac.
* Compiled by Carin Smith