The International Air Transport Association (IATA) 77th Annual General Meeting approved a resolution for the global air transport industry to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
- This commitment will align with the Paris Agreement goal for global warming not to exceed 1.5°C.
Achieving net zero emissions will be a huge challenge.
- The aviation industry must progressively reduce its emissions while accommodating the growing demand of a world that is eager to fly.
- To be able to serve the needs of the ten billion people expected to fly in 2050, at least 1.8 gigatons of carbon must be abated in that year.
- Moreover, the net zero commitment implies that a cumulative total of 21.2 gigatons of carbon will be abated between now and 2050.
The resolution demands that all industry stakeholders commit to addressing the environmental impact of their policies, products, and activities with concrete actions and clear timelines, including:
- Fuel-producing companies bringing large scale, cost-competitive sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) to the market.
- Governments and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) eliminating inefficiencies in air traffic management and airspace infrastructure.
- Aircraft and engine manufacturers producing radically more efficient airframe and propulsion technologies.
- Airport operators providing the needed infrastructure to supply SAF, at cost, and in a cost-effective manner.
Which countries have announced net-zero targets?
- In 2019, the New Zealand government passed the Zero Carbon Act, which committed the country to zero carbon emissions by 2050.
- The UK’s parliament passed legislation requiring the government to reduce the UK’s net emissions of greenhouse gases by 100 per cent.
- US president Joe Biden announced that the country will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
- World War Zero was launched in 2019 to bring together unlikely allies on climate change and with the goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions in the country by 2050.
- The European Union plan “Fit for 55”, the European Commission has asked all of its 27 member countries to cut emissions by 55 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.
- China announced that it would become net-zero by the year 2060 and that it would not allow its emissions to peak beyond what they are in 2030.
What about India?
India, the world’s third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, after the US and China, is the only major player holding out.
- India has been arguing that instead of opening up a parallel discussion on net-zero targets outside of the Paris Agreement framework, countries must focus on delivering on what they have already promised.
Over the next two to three decades, India’s emissions are likely to grow at the fastest pace in the world, as it presses for higher growth to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. No amount of afforestation or reforestation would be able to compensate for the increased emissions. Most of the carbon removal technologies right now are either unreliable or very expensive.
What does net-zero mean?
Net-zero, which is also referred to as carbon-neutrality, does not mean that a country would bring down its emissions to zero. That would be gross-zero, which means reaching a state where there are no emissions at all, a scenario hard to comprehend.
- Basically, net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.