Aviation • Efforts are still in the state of experimentation

This paper presents air transport's two major characteristics: a strong growth in emissions that the technological and organisational progress is currently unable to contain and secondly, the fact that international air transport has been excluded from the climate negotiations.

Publication date



Jean Paul Ceron • Associate expert on climate and energy policies of TEC - Member of the IPCC


With regard to climate change, air transport has two major characteristics. First, a strong growth in emissions that the technological and organisational progress is currently unable to contain. Second, international air transport has been excluded from the climate negotiations and the sectors covered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The file was entrusted to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that brings together the dominant players in the sector (manufacturers, airlines). This resulted in a proposal for the long-term management of air transport emissions: the CORSIA scheme for “Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation”.


1 • Air transport emissions are steadily increasing 

2 • Institutional and political responsibility for aviation emissions: The ICAO proposal

  • The scheme
  • The position of the players when facing large offset systems
  • Sweden, the pioneer in taxation on flights

3 • Voluntary offset systems

  • Voluntary offset put in place by airlines in support of labeling
  • Tour operators also rely on voluntary offset labeling


  • Engines
  • Biofuels
  • Airports


The extremely fast growth of air transport as envisaged for the coming decades (increase in mass tourism, in particular) places all the players involved (manufacturers, airlines, airports) in the face of a major challenge of controlling carbon emissions. As an exception to the agreements between countries under the umbrella of the Climate Convention, air and maritime transport regulation was left to the responsibility of the players themselves through the intermediary of international organisations (ICAO, IATA), although national governments obviously continue to watch over their interests as we have seen with the European ETS. This system of regulation is also based on a refusal to limit the growth of the sector; it has not yet demonstrated its feasibility, and it raises a lot of scepticism about the two preferred tools – offsetting and the call for biofuels. However, it should be noted that the players are truly investing in technological developments (engines and fuels) and forming industrial partnerships,  both for flights and ground infrastructure. The impact of these new technologies in terms of raw carbon emissions and environmental sustainability (including biofuels consumed) will be a key issue in the coming years.