International Civil Aviation Organization Agrees on Global Framework for Cleaner Aviation Fuels to Move Towards Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

Statement from Pedro Piris-Cabezas, Senior Director, Global Transportation and Lead Senior Economist at Environmental Defense Fund

November 24, 2023
Debora Schneider, (212) 616-1377,

Delegates at the Third Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3) of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – the United Nations agency charged with international aviation cooperation – today committed to a more sustainable future for global aviation by adopting the new ICAO Global Framework for Cleaner Fuels. The framework includes a 5% emissions reduction target by 2030 through the use of cleaner energy sources like sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), ensures that the deployment of cleaner fuels will also deliver public health benefits, and contains crucial provisions to avoid double-counting of the emissions reductions derived from the use of cleaner energies.

“Today’s decision has the potential to influence countries’ aviation and climate policies, accelerate the production of sustainable aviation fuels and encourage the private investment necessary to bring these fuels to scale. Countries can act now by leveraging the new framework to reduce aviation’s climate impacts and air pollution.

While ICAO missed the opportunity to adopt a global quantified objective for cleaner fuels for 2050, by agreeing on an interim target it kickstarts an even more important outcome: a global trajectory for achieving a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Ensuring that the aviation sector’s energy transition delivers public health benefits to communities living in the vicinity of airports and to aviation workers who are exposed to aircraft toxic pollution is crucial for the sustainable future of the industry. ICAO’s decision to include the need to reduce climate impacts and mitigate air pollution in the new framework is overdue hopeful news for overburdened communities.

The delegates at CAAF/3 also recognized the importance of avoiding ‘double-counting’ of emissions reduction from the use of cleaner fuels, and agreed to pause the consideration of ‘book and claim’ accounting methods, sending ICAO a strong signal to strengthen existing reporting and accounting methodologies. Avoiding double counting is crucial for public confidence and a precondition to begin considering book and claim accounting methods. These methods could help foster the deployment of cleaner energies, but without a robust sustainability framework and provisions to prevent double counting, there remains a high risk of exacerbating climate change.”

ICAO’s new Global Framework for cleaner aviation fuels builds on ICAO General Assembly’s adoption of a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which put international aviation on a strong energy transition path toward climate neutrality.

Aircraft emissions are one of the largest sources of global climate pollution. If aviation was measured alongside countries, its emissions would be the sixth-largest in the world. Clean, low-carbon sustainable aviation fuels have the potential to produce up to 100% less greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-based fuel on a lifecycle basis – and to mitigate harmful air pollution that disproportionately harms communities living near airports and frontline aviation workers.

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