Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of the greenhouse gas emissions driving global climate change. In fact, if the entire aviation sector were a country, it would be one of the top 10 carbon-polluting nations on the planet. Air travel is also currently the most carbon intensive activity an individual can make. A passenger taking flight from New York to London and back emits more emissions than an average person in Paraguay over the course of an entire year. The global aviation sector needs to get on a sustainable flightpath now, because the climate crisis is not going away. With aviation emissions left unaddressed, we can expect major storm clouds ahead.
In 2010, the aviation industry carried 2.4 billion passengers; in the next 15 years, that number is forecast to rise to 8.2 billion. Without action, emissions from increased air travel could triple from pre-COVID levels by 2050. However, with bold action, we can create a greener, more sustainable aviation industry that supports the effort to address the climate crisis.
As governments consider how to craft a comprehensive climate plans for aviation, they should build it on five pillars:
- Promoting alternatives to air travel Increasing aircraft fuel efficiency
- Developing more sustainable aviation fuels–whether liquid fuels or electricity
- Removing carbon from the atmosphere through investment in renewable energy, carbon credits, and nature-based climate solutions
- Mitigating the effects of non-CO2 exhaust in the atmosphere
WWF is working closely with a diverse array of leading international voices to encourage the aviation industry, government, and the United Nations body in charge of international aviation policy–the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)–to adopt policies and measures to slash the industry's skyrocketing emissions and limit the effects of the climate crisis.