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ATAG Takes Aggressive Approach to Net-Zero Emissions Initiative

IATA Director General Willie Walsh at the International Air Transport Association’s 77th Annual General Meeting (Photo: IATA)

The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) issued a report taking a more aggressive approach to the industry’s net-zero emissions goal. The new goal is to get the industry to a complete net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Prior to this declaration, the industry was set on the goal of cutting CO2 emission by half of the 2005 levels.

The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) consists of many different organizations as well as several different aircraft and engine manufacturers. Some of these groups include the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airlines for America(A4A), Airlines for Europe (A4E), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer, Pratt and Whitney, Rolls Royce, and others. 

In Boston at The International Air Transport Association (IATA) 77th Annual General Meeting, members of the group voted to move forward with the plan, in hopes of completely eliminating carbon dioxide emissions in the industry. 

“The world’s airlines have taken a momentous decision to ensure that flying is sustainable. The post-COVID-19 re-connect will be on a clear path towards net zero. That will ensure the freedom of future generations to sustainably explore, learn, trade, build markets, appreciate cultures and connect with people the world over.” stated IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh. “With the collective efforts of the entire value chain and supportive government policies, aviation will achieve net zero emissions by 2050.”

Founded in 1945 the IATA represents many major carriers around the globe. This includes 290 airlines throughout 117 countries. The large group represents about 82 percent of the industry’s total available seat miles.

The declaration for this ambitious goal states, “global civil aviation operations will achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, supported by accelerated efficiency measures, energy transition, and innovation across the aviation sector and in partnership with governments around the world.”

To give one a perspective on just how big of a challenge this will be, the IATA looked at future projections of how many people will be traveling in the coming decades and came to the conclusion that 1.8 Gigatons of carbon will need to be abated in the year 2050 to reach the ambitious goal of net-zero emissions. With just under 30 years until 2050, it is projected that 21.2 Gigatons will be abated between now and 2050.

The Plan

Coordination between all sectors of the industry will be key to finding success with a large undertaking like this one. Coordination between the airlines, aircraft manufacturers, and engine manufacturers  will help in finding solutions to more sustainable aviation fuels, new aircraft technology, better infrastructure, and more efficient operations. Willie Walsh of the IATA believes 65% of the industry’s emissions will be eliminated through more sustainable fuels, 13% through the development of new propulsion systems such as hydrogen, 3% in efficiency improvements, and the remaining 18% through capture and storage and offsets. 

IATA’s website provides major milestones the industry should expect to hit in order for the industry to be successful in the endeavor:

  • 2025: With appropriate government policy support, SAF production is expected to reach 7.9 billion liters (2% of total fuel requirement).
  • 2030: SAF production is 23 billion liters (5.2% of total fuel requirement). ANSPs have fully implemented the ICAO Aviation System Block Upgrades and regional programs such as the Single European Sky.
  • 2035: SAF production is 91 billion liters (17% of total fuel requirement). Electric and/or hydrogen aircraft for the regional market (50-100 seats, 30-90 min flights) become available.
  • 2040: SAF production is 229 billion liters (39% of total fuel requirement). Hydrogen aircraft for the short-haul market (100-150 seats, 45-120 min flights) become available.
  • 2045: SAF production is 346 billion liters (54% of total fuel requirement).
  • 2050: SAF production hits 449 billion liters (65% of total fuel requirement).

Through this initiative, many new technologies and innovations will be developed resulting in substantial environmental benefits. Whether the industry meets its lofty ambition or not, it will still be moving in the right direction towards a better tomorrow. Walsh concludes with, “Aviation has a history of realizing what was thought to be impossible—and doing so quickly.”

Chase Hagl


  • Chase Hagl

    Chase Hagl grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho. His love and passion for Aviation landed him in Orem, Utah where he obtained a B.S. in Aviation Management with a minor in Business Management from Utah Valley University. Chase currently works as a flight attendant in Charleston, SC and is also the primary Inflight ASAP ERC representative for startup airline, Breeze Airways. His experience in the aviation industry spans back four years, working in areas including agriculture application, customer service, maintenance, and flight ops. In his free time, Chase enjoys road biking, astronomy, and flying.

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