The heads of 28 leading commercial aviation businesses and organizations have penned an open letter to governments worldwide calling on them to support aviation’s trailblazing efforts to reduce the industry’s contribution to climate change.

The letter, which was released to coincide with the Air Transport Action Group’s (ATAG) Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva this week, points out that aviation was the first transport sector to set global goals to proactively manage its climate change impact

These goals, which were agreed in 2008, seek to improve annual average fuel efficiency by at least 1.5% a year by 2020 (currently running above expectations at 2.9%), cap net CO2 emissions from 2020 through a global market-based measure (MBM) being developed by ICAO, and a longer-term goal to reduce net CO2 emissions from aviation to half of 2005 levels, by 2050.

The letter specifically calls for government support in the following key areas:

• air traffic management investment and reform, including the implementation of ICAO’s aviation system block upgrades (ASBUs) as well as commitments by governments to deploy performance-based navigation (PBN) to reduce emissions and noise;

• research into new technology, operations and sustainable alternative fuels, including research into new feedstocks and production pathways for alternative aviation fuel, as well as education to help foster a future generation of aeronautical engineers and knowledge economies;

• improved intermodal transport planning;

• and a policy framework to help accelerate the availability of alternative aviation fuels, which could help cut emissions by up to 80% over their lifecycles in some instances, that can be produced from sustainable, non-food crops and waste by-products. “Aviation is the perfect sector to use them, but we must make sure sufficient supply is available that meets both sustainability criteria and cost parameters,” the letter said. “We are already using these fuels today in small quantities. To increase use for the future, there needs to be the right policy environment including the de-risking of production facilities.”

The aviation leaders also called for “a smart regulatory environment that encourages aviation development as part of broader government economic growth policy, coordinated within and across national borders to bring global benefits in a way that avoids unintended negative consequences.”

It urged governments to take a “collaborative, comprehensive and ‘joined up’ approach to aviation emissions” at both the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in December this year and the milestone 39th ICAO Assembly next autumn which will aim to adopt a global MBM for aviation.

“We have just one year in which to shape a ground-breaking MBM that will, for the first time, enable a single global sector to stabilize its emissions from 2020,” the letter said. “It's a challenging task. But it is one to which the aviation industry is fully committed. We need governments meeting at ICAO to work together with us and civil society to push this process forward. We call on them to agree at the 39th ICAO Assembly to the implementation of a simple, global offsetting scheme which will stabilize air transport carbon emissions growth and to endorse an historic global CO2 standard for new aircraft. To delay will harm a vital global sector and harm our global climate.”

IATA DG and CEO Tony Tyler told the Geneva Summit: “Governments have heard a clear message from industry. We have only 12 months to go before ICAO makes its decision on that MBM. In the hands of 190 states will be the power to make aviation’s carbon-neutral growth goal a reality. It is no exaggeration to say that the eyes of the world will be on them.”

The letter was signed by the CEOs, directors general, and presidents of businesses and organizations ranging from the major aircraft and engine manufacturers to the main global and regional airline, airport, air navigation service provider (ANSP), and industry organizations and associations. The businesses boast a trillion dollar combined annual revenue, four million employees, over 90% of global airline passengers, 1,861 airports, ANSPs supporting 85% of air traffic, and airlines from across the spectrum. The letter was published in the Financial Times and on the Internet, and has been sent to the secretary general of the United Nations, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the French government delegation leading the COP21 talks in Paris. It is also being sent to governments around the world.