25 February 2024

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

European summit of governments and industry pledge commitment to net zero aviation emissions

A summit of 37 European countries, the European Commission and representatives from nearly 150 companies and stakeholders convened by the French government, which currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, has affirmed support for the goal of achieving carbon neutrality in the air transport sector by 2050. Signatories to the ‘Toulouse Declaration’ have pledged to implement a basket of measures “with effective and ambitious interim milestones” to accelerate the transition of both the European as well as the international aviation sector to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The United States, Canada, Morocco and Japan also took part in the summit and backed the Declaration. Another participant was Salvatore Sciacchitano, President of the ICAO Council, who commended the Declaration and its ambition for strengthening ICAO’s CORSIA international carbon offsetting scheme and the adoption of a long-term CO2 reduction goal at the UN agency’s assembly later this year.

Speaking at the conclusion of the European Aviation Summit, French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari commented: “Today, a new chapter in aviation history is being opened. In committing to reducing the carbon emissions of air transport by 2050, Europe is leading by example. All of us – governments, industry stakeholders, associations – have come together to rally behind this goal. We shall proudly and in unison uphold it on an international level.”

The summit held last week in Toulouse brough together the 27 EU member states and 10 other member states of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), including the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway. Working sessions were held at ENAC, the French National School of Civil Aviation, which included a presentation of a study of citizens of a dozen countries – Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK and the United States. The study highlighted citizens’ desire to both continue travelling and their strong expectations for air transport decarbonisation.

“They hope for a firm commitment from the air sector on a global level and particularly count on biofuels and new engine technologies (electric and/or hydrogen), despite being aware of the rise in prices that this will entail,” reported the French presidency.

The basket of measures to achieve the net zero goal include aircraft technology advancement, improvements in operations, the use of sustainable aviation fuels, market-based measures, carbon pricing, financial incentives and support to foster environmental and climate innovation in the air transport sector, of which “a number are addressed in the [EU’s] Fit for 55 package,” notes the declaration. It calls for “a regular and constructive dialogue, in Europe and worldwide, on the decarbonisation of aviation between authorities, industry and civil society” and for partners worldwide to work together for the adoption at this year’s ICAO Assembly of an ambitious long-term aspirational goal for international aviation of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The declaration also emphasises a need to address the non-CO2 impacts of aviation based on on-going research and “recognising that many CO2 reduction measures in aviation also reduce non-CO2 impacts”.

It also “invites other countries and international organisations to join this declaration, engage in the development of sectoral roadmaps, and work together towards sustainability and decarbonisation of aviation worldwide.” The declaration reaffirms the commitments set out in the UK-brokered declaration of the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition agreed by 25 countries at COP26 last November.

The European aviation industry last year set a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with an interim 2030 target of reducing carbon emissions on intra-European flights by 55% compared to 1990 levels, in line with the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ climate goal. At the same time, the Destination 2050 roadmap, the work of the five major industry associations, was published on how the goals could be achieved. The sector proposed an ‘EU Pact for Aviation Decarbonisation’ between industry and national and EU policymakers to agree on targets and the alignment of the roadmap with the enabling of the necessary regulatory and financial framework.

“The Destination 2050 partners now expect the Toulouse Declaration to be translated into a structured dialogue and concrete policy action,” commented the five industry associations representing airlines, manufacturers, airports and air navigation – A4E, ACI Europe, ASD, ERA and CANSO – in a joint statement. “Industry is already transitioning to a decarbonised future through improvements in aircraft and engine technologies, the development of sustainable aviation fuels, improvements in air traffic management and aircraft operations, as well as through efficient economic measures.”

Urging the Commission and EU Member States signing the Declaration to develop and support its proposed Pact, the industry partners called for public and private funding to channel investments, R&D and innovation into decarbonisation and a more sustainable aviation ecosystem, and by including relevant aviation activities into the EU taxonomy for sustainable finance.

They also proposed initiatives and incentives for:

  • The earmarking of revenues from the EU ETS to support decarbonisation activities;
  • More sustainable airport infrastructure, operations and related services, including through the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme;
  • Public incentives for the deployment of sustainable aviation fuels;
  • Fleet renewal coupled with aircraft retirement, and bringing zero-emission aircraft to market by 2035, including through the supply and airport infrastructure deployment of green hydrogen and electricity; and
  • A more sustainable, network-centric, modern and digital air traffic management system through the Single European Sky and SESAR.

The partners also call on the European Commission to implement the launch of industrial alliances to align the entire ecosystem around the joint ambition. While supporting Europe’s ambition for global action on agreeing a long-term aspirational goal at ICAO, they stress that it must preserve a level playing field and international competitiveness.

Photo: Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (© Philippe Garcia)

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