Decarbonisation of aviation: why EU and ICAO action is needed

Aviation accounts for over 13% of Europe’s transport CO2 emissions and a far greater share of its climate impact – its non-CO2 effects can equal or exceed those of its CO2 effects. Globally, aviation emissions are expected to grow 300% by 2050 unless action is taken. This fast growth is partly fuelled by measures including highly preferential tax treatment, burgeoning direct subsidies, exceptional treatment in the EU ETS, and undue reliance on the industry-dominated UN agency ICAO to regulate emissions.

It is imperative that effective measures are implemented to reduce aviation emissions in line with the EU’s 2030 climate targets and the Paris agreement’s objectives. At today’s growth rates in Europe aviation will, combined with shipping, wipe out almost half of the projected emissions savings made by climate action in the EU road transport sector by 2030.

Europe must not rely exclusively on the weak and incomplete global climate measure agreed at ICAO last October which is due to be partially and voluntarily implemented from 2021. This paper outlines a range of options which are open at European-level, including in areas where ICAO has no competence. Biofuel and technology breakthroughs alone won’t be sufficient. An EU-wide strategy on making passenger rail a viable and competitive alternative is also urgently needed.