The aviation industry’s biggest challenge

The global aviation industry, governments, industry experts and business leaders are all grappling with the impact of aviation growth on climate change. The following research outlines the enormity of the challenge and considers the available data and options.

New Zealand perspective

  • McLachlan, R.I. and Callister, P.  Managing New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. (2023). Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, DOI: 10.1080/03036758.2023.2212174. (Link)
  • McLachlan, R.I. and Callister, P. Decarbonising Aotearoa New Zealand’s aviation sector: Hard to abate, but even harder to govern. Policy Quarterly – Vol.9 Issue 2 (May 2023). (Link)
  • Callister, P. and Rae, W.. Can We Keep Flying? Decarbonising New Zealand’s Domestic and International Aviation. IGPS working paper (Link)
  • Callister, P. and O’Callahan, H. How to decarbonise New Zealand’s transport sector. IGPS working paper. (Link)

Global perspective

  • International Energy Agency. Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2023. (July 2023). (Link).
  • Sacchi, R., Becattini, V., Gabrielli, P. et al. How to make climate-neutral aviation fly. Nat Commun 14, 3989 (2023).
  • Climate Change Committee. 2023 Progress Report to Parliament. (28 June 2023). (Link).
  • Overton, J. Issue Brief | The Growth in Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Commercial Aviation (2019, revised 2022). (Link)
  • Begero, C., Gosnell, G., Gielen, D., Kang, S., Bazilian, M., Davis, S. J. (2022). Pathways to net-zero emissions from aviation. (Link)
  • Grewe, V., Ganglio Rao, A., Grönsted, T., Xisto, C., Linke, F., Melkert, J., Middel, J., Ohlenforst, B., Blakey, S., Christie, S., Matthes, S., Dahlmann, K. (2021)  Evaluating the climate impact of aviation emission scenarios towards the Paris agreement including COVID-19 effects. Nature Communications 12, Article number 3841 (2021). (Link)
  • Ward, M., Allwood, J. M., Azevedo, J., Cleaver, C., Cullen, J., Dunant, C., Fellin, T. , Hawkins, W., Horrocks, I., Horton, P., Ibell, T., Lin, J., Low, H., Lupton, R., Murray, J., Clare, A., Salamati, M.R., Cabrera Serrenho, A., and Zhou, W. (2019) Absolute Zero : Delivering the UK’s climate Change Commitment with Incremental Changes to Today’s Technologies. DOI: 10.17863/CAM.46075 (Link)
  • Klöwerm M., Allen, M.R., Lee, D.S., Proud, S.R., Gallagher, L. and Skowron, A. (2021). Quantifying aviation’s contribution to global warming. Environ. Res. Lett. 16 104027, DOI 10.1088/1748-9326/ac286e (Link)
  • Zheng, X.S. and Rutherford, D. (2021). Variation in aviation emissions by itinerary: The case for emissions disclosure. Working Paper. (Link)

A selection of relevant media coverage outlining the problem of aviation growth

The following articles include reference to studies/research and/or significant statements made by industry leaders in relation to aviation growth and its impact on climate change.

  • Weekly data: record number of flights in the sky as southern Europe burns. Energy Monitor (31 July 2023). Read it here.
  • Jetting off into the sun? The adverts are selling you a ticket to climate disaster. Guardian (27 July 2023). Read it here.
  • Extreme heat forces US airlines to limit passengers and fuel loads. Guardian (23 July 2023). Read it here.
  • IEA finds aviation’s decarbonisation efforts fall short of net zero. Energy Intelligence (21 July 2023). Read it here. Report is here.
  • Airlines could ditch flights to Australia to meet future emissions promises, parliament told. Guardian (20 July 2023). Read it here.
  • Planes on the brain. Ecologist. (17 July 2023). Read it here.
  • Airport expansion does not boost UK growth or productivity – report. Guardian (17 July 2023). Read it here.
  • IATA releases Net Zero tracking methodology for emission reporting. International Airport Review (7 July 2023). Read it here. Note: data will be aggregated and reported annually.
  • Climate-neutral air travel: Is it possible? Paul Scherrer Institut (6 July 2023). Read it here.
  • UK airports say they can reach net zero and still expand. Is it just pie in the sky? Guardian (2 July 2023). Read it here.
  • Want a climate-friendly flight? It’s going to take a while and cost you more. Stuff (26 June 2023). Read it here.
  • European aviation faces a €820 billion tab to reach net zero. AIN Online (15 June 2023). Read it here.
  • Net Zero Is A ‘PR Exercise’ By Airlines , We Will Not Even Reach The SAF Targets We Have For 2030 , Says Qatar Airways Group CEO HE Akbar Al Baker. FL360Aero (6 June 2023). Read it here.
  • Study: Airlines to miss net zero goals unless demand is reduced. BusinessGreen (6 June 2023). Read it here.
  • Qatar Airways CEO suggests 2050 net-zero goal beyond reach. Reuters (24 May 2023). Read it here.
  • Emirates president warns aviation industry will miss net-zero target. MENAFN (14 May 2023). Read it here.
  • Ryanair dismisses hydrogen-fuelled net zero flights as it places biggest ever order for Boeing jets. The Telegraph (10 May 2023). Read it here.
  • 22% jump in airfares expected as airlines tackle climate change. Forbes (30 April 2023). Read it here.
  • End of super-cheap flights is the new reality for travellers. BusinessDesk (23 April 2023). Read it here (paywall) and also here (no paywall).
  • One of Europe’s busiest airports to be forced to cut flights due to planet-warming carbon pollution. CNN (22 March 2023). Read it here. Also on Bloomberg here.
  • Net-zero aviation needs up to $1 trillion in carbon offsets by 2050. NewScientist (30 January 2023). Read it here.
  • The case for banning some of New Zealand’s shortest flights. Stuff (13th January 2023). Read it here.
  • Climate impact of a transatlantic flight could cost global economy $3,000. The Guardian (6th September 2021). Read it here.
  • The six problems aviation must fix to hit net zero. The Observer (5th September 2021). Read it here.
  • The fastest way aviation could cut its carbon emissions. BBC (26th May 2021). Read it here.
  • Aircraft contrails are a climate menace. Can we rid the sky of them? NewScientist (17 March 2021). Read it here.
  •  We can’t expand airports after declaring a climate emergency – let’s shift to low-carbon transport instead. The Conversation (30th July 2019).
  • Climate change: should you fly, drive or take the train? BBC (24 August 2019). Read it here.

Media coverage of growth in jet orders

  • World’s largest commercial jet purchase orders by number of aircraft. Reuters (21 June 2023). Read it here.
  • Airbus wins largest commercial airplane contract in history at Paris Air Show. France 24 (19 June 2023). Read it here.
  • Boeing Sees $8 Trillion Jet Market as Climate Reshapes Travel. Bloomberg (18 June 2023). Read it here. “Boeing predicts airlines around the world will add 42,595 jets valued at about $8 trillion over the next two decades, even as concerns over climate change affect the way consumers travel…Boeing expects the global fleet will nearly double through 2042”
  • Ryanair dismisses hydrogen-fuelled net zero flights as it places biggest ever order for Boeing jets. The Telegraph (10 May 2023). Read it here.
  • Private jet sales likely to reach highest ever level this year, report says. The Guardian (1 May 2023). Read it here.
  • The global jet set feels the heat over climate change. DeutscheWelle (19 April 2023). Read it here.

Access research topics here:

  • Back to Research Index home page (click here)
  • The big picture – the challenge of climate change and aviation emissions (click here)
  • Aotearoa’s tourism sector grapples with sustainability (click here)
  • The aviation industry’s biggest challenge (click here)
  • “Low carbon aviation”: aviation efficiency and technology myths (click here)
  • Aviation: moral arguments and climate equity (click here)
  • Policy considerations to reduce carbon emissions (click here)
  • Infrastructure trajectories with positive long term outcomes (click here)
  • Behavioural and attitudinal change to reduce emissions (click here)
  • Economic consequences of (in)action on climate change (click here)

Suggest amendments

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