In October 2022, delegates from 184 States met for intensive diplomacy at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) General Assembly in Montréal, Canada. The result was for ICAO Member States to adopt a collective “long-term global aspirational goal” (LTAG) of net-zero carbon emissions from aviation by 2050.
While it’s always been clear that we in the aviation industry love complex acronyms, it’s now also abundantly clear that our leaders (in both political and business circles) love to evade any sense of accountability. They’ve failed to commit to act upon the greatest existential crisis facing civilisation and the various societies around the world which our industry so proudly connects.
Safe Landing believes that ICAO’s “Net Zero by 2050” target simply continues to reinforce:
⭕️ Zero accountability.
⭕️ Zero carbon budgets.
⭕️ Zero limits on CO2 emissions.
⭕️ Zero action on non-CO2 emissions.
⭕️ Zero tax, or Frequent Flyer Levy, on jet fuel.
⭕️ Zero chance of preventing an industry climate crash.
We don’t need “long term aspirational goals” but rather “short term committed targets”. Fundamentally, we need to urgently agree:
✅ a carbon budget for international aviation;
✅ how to subdivide that budget between nations;
✅ how to measure, account for, and mitigate non-CO2 impacts.
Any agreement neglecting these points feels like an abject failure. At the next ICAO General Assembly we may have already exceeded 1.5°C global heating and any 2050 goal may have been rendered irrelevant.
To stay below the 1.5 °C target, aviation would have to cut its emissions very sharply during the 2020s. If it does not, its carbon budget will be exceeded around 2030 and the budget overrun would be very large:
This diagram does not include the effects of aviation’s non-CO2 that have an even greater climate impact than CO2. If the global warming impacts of non-CO2 emissions are included, and remain unmitigated, then aviation’s fair share of a 1.5 °C carbon budget may be blown within only a few years.
A Failure of Leadership?
Long term climate goals are only worthwhile when the body adopting them has the ability and the desire to implement them. ICAO does not appear to have the capacity to adopt and to enforce the measures needed to achieve immediate emission reductions which are necessary to align the sector with the Paris Agreement, that is, to limit global warming to well below 2°C, and preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial temperature levels.
Collectively within ICAO, and individually within national governments: political leaders have consistently demonstrated themselves incapable of considering and implementing the types of policies desperately needed to reform and transform air travel. They’ve also doubtless been influenced by powerful fossil fuel & aviation industry lobby groups into watered-down proposals.
“Net Zero by 2050” is simply far too little, far too late. Make no mistake: this is a failure of leadership. Leaders are failing people and the planet, but also aviation workers who are being led towards a cliff-edge.
The current ‘business-as-usual’ expansion of the sector is setting us on a trajectory that will fly us well beyond 1.5°C and 2°C of global warming. In a future world where runaway climate breakdown is wreaking havoc on coastlines, crops and communities — it’s hard to imagine anything but a chaotic and unplanned rapid ramp-down of air traffic. We may have to stop flying completely, with massive consequences for aviation workers.
Take Control: Workers’ Assemblies
At Safe Landing, we’ve proposed Aviation Workers’ Climate Assemblies as a process to include and empower aviation workers to develop an independent vision for the future of air travel.
Now, more than ever, aviation workers should be at the controls when navigating a sustainable future for our industry.
We need an #AviationWorkersAssembly, NOW!
Visit: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/takeaction/462/477/350/ to sign the petition.