Gift of climate consensus

Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, President, International Civil Aviation Organization

Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, President, International Civil Aviation Organization

In the face of carbon emission and climate change challenges, one gift which we can all be grateful is the very clear testament to realistic climate progress recently agreed to by the many diverse players in the international air transport sector. 

In September, no fewer than 191 governments came together at the Montreal headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to iron out the final points of a new CO2 emissions solution for international flights. 

The basic purpose of this global measure is to help aviation mitigate its CO2 emissions that are not already being reduced through new technologies, streamlined operations and improved infrastructure. 

Considered an impossible goal by many, especially given the wide-ranging variance in the capabilities and ambitions of the countries that needed to find common ground on it, the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), presented numerous diplomatic challenges. 

The ultimate agreement was further complicated by the fact that private sector organizations representing airlines, airports and many other air transport interests needed to be brought on board with its approach, including a wide range of non-governmental organizations. As a result of the clear motivation on behalf of these disparate parties to take meaningful climate action, an effective solution was arrived at. 

The CORSIA approach is both flexible and pragmatic. It is also a world first for any major industry sector and demonstrates that sufficient leadership and political will does exist today at the national and global levels to safeguard our environment. 

The air transport sector is currently responsible for roughly 1.3 per cent of annual man-made CO2 emissions. While that percentage may seem small, governments, airlines and others clearly recognize that it cannot double in lockstep with the number of flights our network manages. 

The new CORSIA solution will now help to complement the wide ranging efforts on emissions reductions that the aviation sector is already pursuing, and that have helped modern aircraft become 80 per cent more fuel efficient than the first commercial jets. 

It’s my hope that aviation’s gift of climate consensus will become a helpful example for other industries in the years ahead, and lead to further and concrete progress on reining in our collective emissions.