ICAO helping countries to reduce aviation’s impact on environment

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) says it remains committed to helping states and the industry reduce aviation’s impact on the environment as part of its efforts to support the well-being of the planet and to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

ICAO Secretary General, Dr. Fang Liu stated this during the celebration of 2020 International Earth Day on April 22. According to Liu, The aviation industry is resilient. The recovery of global air connectivity is crucial to achieving the United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

The theme of the event was Climate Action .

ICAO sets Standards, policies and plans that are agreed by 193 states in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector, and this includes Standards on aircraft noise, emissions that impact local air quality and CO2. As the focus of Earth day is Climate Action, it is important to highlight that ICAO and its Member States have taken many steps towards a more sustainable future from a climate perspective.

In 2010, aviation became the first sector that committed to carbon-neutral growth, meaning that aviation would grow but its CO₂ emissions would not. The plan that followed included measures to progress technology, operational measures and sustainable fuels and the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme (CORSIA) for International Aviation was adopted as the first global market-based measure (MBM) for any sector.

The action taken by ICAO on technology meant that aviation became the first sector to adopt a CO₂ aeroplane certification standard for both new and in-production aircraft. Today we continue to see unprecedented development in technology, including in electric and hybrid aircraft and the consideration of other energy sources, with some small electric aircraft that have already been tested.

Regarding actions on sustainable aviation fuels, since the initial flight tests in 2009, many production paths have been certified, and more than 200,000 commercial flights have flown using sustainable fuels from different sources. Many actions are being taken now to increase the amount of sustainable fuels available at a reasonable cost.  In 2017, ICAO adopted the 2050 vision for sustainable aviation fuel as well as a stocktaking process to quantify the vision. ICAO is also facilitating the development of feasibility studies and facilitating the implementation of partnerships and measures to foster progress.   ICAO has also developed global sustainability criterion for considering sustainable aviation fuels under CORSIA, providing a concrete policy that directly incentivizes the use of such fuels.

On the action associated with CORSIA, many MBM options were considered. However, after full consultations, in 2016, CORSIA was adopted as the first global market-based measure for any sector. Since then Standards, policies and tools for its implementation were expeditiously developed, and an unprecedented capacity building programme was put in place.  More than 100 States were trained by experts from other States and in parallel, industry trained its operators so that all the national regulations and procedures to start the monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions were in place.

Based on these actions we will successfully achieve our mid-term commitment for carbon-neutral growth from 2020, and following the instructions of the 40th Session of the ICAO Assembly, ICAO is working on the feasibility of a long term aspiration goal for international aviation.

It is important that we do not waver in our commitment to sustainability as States and the industry work to recover from the impacts of COVID-19. On Earth Day we recognize and celebrate the contributions and commitments of not just our Member States, but also international organizations, industry and civil society, who are all supporting ICAO in its achievements thus far and its leadership towards a more sustainable future for aviation.

Our global climate action strategy provides a solid foundation for further progress. For this reason, on Earth Day, ICAO is asking everyone to join us in advocating for even greater commitments to ensure a robust and sustainable future for the global civil aviation network.

Aviation is in essence, a technology-driven sector that has fulfilled humankind’s dream of flying. The next chapter for aviation will involve fulfilling the societal aspiration of an environmentally sustainable future of flight.

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