Environmental Protection will always be an important ICAO Strategic Objective. ICAO has been working in this area since the late 1960s, first focusing on the establishment of international policies and standards related to aircraft noise, but gradually expanding to other subject areas such as local air quality and subsequently climate change.
Based on recent figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), aviation (domestic and international) accounts for approximately 2 per cent of global CO2 emissions produced by human activity; international aviation is responsible for approximately 1.3 per cent of global CO2 emissions.
Though significant technological progress has been made in the aviation sector since the 1960s and aircraft produced today are about 80 per cent more fuel efficient per passenger kilometer, aviation emissions are forecasted to grow in the coming decades, as the projected annual improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency of around 1 to 2 per cent are largely surpassed by forecasted traffic growth of around 5 per cent per year.
Based on the environmental trend assessment by the ICAO Council’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), international aviation fuel consumption is estimated to grow somewhere between 2.8 to 3.9 times by 2040 compared to the 2010 levels. For further details on the CAEP assessment, please refer to Assembly Working Paper A39-WP/55 presented to the 39th Session of the ICAO Assembly.
In October 2013, the 38th Session of the ICAO Assembly adopted Resolution A38-18, which resolved that ICAO and its Member States, with relevant organizations, would work together to strive to achieve a collective medium term global aspirational goal of keeping the global net CO2 emissions from international aviation from 2020 at the same level (so-called “carbon neutral growth from 2020”). The Assembly also defined a basket of measures designed to help achieve the ICAO’s global aspirational goal. This basket includes aircraft technologies such as lighter airframes, higher engine performance and new certification standards, operational improvements (e.g. improved ground operations and air traffic management), sustainable alternative fuels, and market-based measures (MBMs).
In October 2016, ICAO’s 39th General Assembly agreed to recommend adoption of a final Resolution text for the new global market-based measure (GMBM) to control and reduce CO2 emissions from international aviation, steps that will include technical and operational improvements and advances in the production and use of sustainable alternative fuels for aviation.