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Aviation's challenging environmental outlook: faster action needed

Because of projected traffic growth, climate change is possibly aviation's biggest environmental challenge, in spite of the industry's relatively small current contribution to carbon emissions. The Dec-2018 Climate Change Conference in Katowice heard that the world is in line for global warming of 3C by the end of the century – much worse than the 1.5C goal set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Global aviation set targets 10 years ago to mitigate its climate change impact: 1.5% pa fuel efficiency improvements to 2020, carbon neutral growth from 2020 and a halving of emissions by 2050 versus 2005. Its strategy to achieve these goals consists of four pillars: operations, infrastructure, technology and a global market-based economic measure, CORSIA, which is a stop-gap pending technological solutions such as biofuels and new propulsion technology. Jan-2019 marks the start of the reporting phase of CORSIA.

Few other industries have such a comprehensive approach. Nevertheless, aviation is not included in the Paris Agreement and is vulnerable to accusations that it is not doing enough. In Katowice in Dec-2018 the UN Secretary-General António Guterres articulated goals of a 45% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050 (versus 2010). Aviation led the world in setting climate change targets but now looks like a laggard. This needs to change in 2019.

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