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 Aviation’s impact on our climate
Before we delve into
the ways to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint, let’s take
a look at the underlying concepts.
When talking about climate policy, we generally define net-zero carbon emissions as a balanced state within a given scope where the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by human activity is equal to the amount withdrawn from the atmosphere by natural absorption, coupled with carbon capture actions. Since the difference between the amount of CO2 emitted and withdrawn equals zero, we also refer to this state as “zero net emissions”.
For companies, the quest for net-zero carbon emissions entails the application of technologies and processes that reduce emissions as much as possible during production, along with the direct or indirect funding of actions to negate emissions, such as planting trees, capture and storage, geoengineering, etc.
■ In excess of 95% of the greenhouse gases (GHG) due to aviation is generated by the fuel aircraft burn over their lifetime. The majority is emitted in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas caused by human activity. We have a clear understanding of the amount of this gas emitted by aircraft, since it’s directly proportional to the weight of the fuel burned. According to ATAG, aviation emitted more than 900 million metric tons of CO2 worldwide in 2019, or 2.1% of all CO2 emitted by human activities (as in 2018). Reducing this amount is a top priority for the entire industry, which is focused on improving the energy efficiency of airframes and engines, while also optimizing operations.
■ Aircraft also generate other emissions that contribute to climate warming – the so-called “non- CO2 effects” – but the amounts and proportions are much more difficult to quantify.

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