Aviation links hundreds of nations worldwide, and the aviation industry employs over 11.3 million people globally. It is one of the world's major people connections, facilitating massive commerce and tourism. It contributes to the success of the community and society by creating employment, economic development, and opportunities. However, carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft today account for around 2.5% of total world CO2 emissions. Organizations like the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have recognized for years that for the aviation industry to progress, it needs to decrease its contribution to global warming.
The Emissions Targets of the Aviation Industry
The aviation community developed an extensive set of goals and objectives in 2009 to restrict and minimize the sector's influence on climate warming via carbon pollution. This initiative took shape at the direction of IATA and with the support of the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The 2009 objectives were as follows:
a 1.5% increase in fuel economy per year (average) from 2009 to 2020
a limit on net aviation CO2 emissions beginning in 2020 (carbon-neutral expansion)
a 50% decrease in net aviation CO2 emissions by 2050 compared to 2005 levels
The IATA's 4-Pillar Strategy
The aviation industry endorsed the 2009 goals, and IATA developed a 4-pillar strategy to guide the industry forward. Together, these four pillars cover the entire sector, from aircraft R&D to economic and social measures to reduce emissions. The four pillars include improvements in the following:
Technology encompasses propulsion systems, such as engine design, aerodynamic advancements, and sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).
IATA recommended adding the most recent and fuel-efficient aircraft to the global aviation fleet. In addition, there is a drive to retrofit current aircraft and retire older planes from continued service.
Various current initiatives in electric or hybrid-electric airframes have begun worldwide; the majority of them aim to come online between 2020 and 2030, with several already commercially accessible.
Aircraft might be fueled by hydrogen, either directly (through a hydrogen turbine) or a fuel cell. During the burning process, hydrogen produces no CO2 and allows for significant reductions in other constituents that contribute to climate change, like nitrogen oxides, soot, and high-altitude water vapor.
The IATA rightly felt that curbing emissions would need to involve more than just clean-burning fuels and better onboard tech – operations throughout the entire aviation sector should improve as well.
For example, aircraft should begin to draw power from the airport's power grid while they are on the ground instead of burning fuel. Connections between the plane and the terminal could power onboard climate control and start aircraft engines. In addition, airports could employ efficient EVs to load baggage and help aircraft taxi to their point of takeoff.
Further measures to increase operational efficiency include:
This pillar comprises both air and ground infrastructure, including better air traffic control methodologies and more efficient airport layouts and procedures to limit congestion. According to the IATA, inefficiencies in airport and airspace infrastructure waste approximately 5% of annual aviation fuel usage.
The airports themselves should become more carbon-neutral, leveraging renewable energy tech to meet their high-power requirements. Furthermore, policies that require aircraft engines to remain off until the time of departure can help.
Air traffic management (ATM) may be the most crucial element in the infrastructure pillar. The amount of fuel an aircraft burns is directly contingent upon the flight path, altitude, and weather conditions it experiences. Enhanced ATM systems using satellite tracking and other methods of shortening routes can reduce the amount of time in the air and improve the flying conditions of thousands of flights at a time.
Sustainability demands a single, internationally agreed-upon economic system that employs financial incentives to achieve a worldwide emissions limit. This will be required to cover emission reductions not achieved through the first three pillars. Taxation, emissions trading, and carbon offset programs are the three primary forms of socio-economic measures.
Since the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, the aviation industry has been under increased pressure to limit its footprint. The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is a program that offsets and mitigates CO2 emissions from long-haul flights, thereby reducing aviation's influence on global warming.
The ICAO developed and accepted it in October 2016. Its objective was to achieve carbon-neutral expansion by 2020. To counterbalance CO2 emissions, CORSIA employs market-based environmental policy mechanisms. For instance, airline companies must acquire carbon credits from a marketplace. The plan will be optional for all nations beginning in 2021 and will last until 2027.
The Four Pillars Are Helping to Support an Improved Aviation Industry
The global aviation industry has made considerable strides toward sustainability in the last decade. Guided by the four pillars of the IATA, carriers have employed new technology, including more efficient fuel and better-designed engines. Moreover, they have embraced policies to reduce the airborne weight of their craft and reduce congestion on the ground and in the air. With the development of economic policies like CORSIA, the industry can offset a massive amount of carbon. Although aviation is still a significant polluter, it is tough not to feel optimistic that the future holds a sustainable and accessible transportation system for everyone.
Respect Resources – Wherever your flight takes you, be sure to conserve water and energy wherever you go. Travel light and avoid inefficient means of transportation. The closer to nature, the better!
Leverage Carbon Offsets – Carbon credits are not only for large airline companies. There are many carbon-tracking apps available. Some of them actually bill you based on your emissions and send the money to fund green research!
Localize Spending – A personal socio-economic strategy is keeping your money focused where it should be – on the local population. For example, stay-in-home shares or locally owned lodgings to ensure the money is not going to international hospitality conglomerates.