Airlines Are Leading the Way to a Greener Future

A comprehensive approach is needed to address the climate issues facing our planet. America’s airlines have taken such a path with an ambitious and innovative set of actions to help address the world’s environmental challenges.

Our members over the years have been leading the aviation industry toward a greener future that feeds economic growth while continuing to give our customers the choices and value they deserve. America’s airlines have invested billions of dollars in new aircraft and technologies to improve fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and we’ve taken a leadership role in the development and deployment of sustainable alternative fuels.

To complement these ongoing efforts, U.S. airlines, in collaboration with the U.S. government and our global partners, helped to forge two historic agreements in 2016 to support our goal of achieving carbon-neutral growth in international aviation. One of the International Civil Aviation Organization agreements establishes a first-of-its-kind fuel carbon dioxide certification standard for future aircraft, while the other represents the first global market-based measure for greenhouse gas emissions by an individual business sector.

U.S. airlines have a strong record of environmental responsibility. The fact that airlines contribute just 2 percent of carbon dioxide emissions domestically and globally does not soften our determination to reduce emissions and become even more efficient. Frankly, doing so is good for the environment and good for business.

An industry that drives 5 percent of the U.S. economy, executes nearly 27,000 flights a day and drives more than 10 million U.S. jobs needs the best technology to serve its customers safely and efficiently. With innovations such as winglets (which improve aerodynamics) and cutting-edge route optimization software, we’ve found new ways to cut fuel use while keeping air travel affordable and accessible. This is not new terrain for us but rather an approach we have embraced for decades.

As a result of our efforts, U.S. airlines have improved their fuel efficiency more than 125 percent since 1978, eliminating 4.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s equivalent to taking about 25 million cars off the road every year. We’ve achieved this even as more and more Americans fly.

U.S. airlines are getting even greener. Our goal of carbon-neutral growth in international aviation beginning in 2021 is a remarkable target — but the global aviation community is committed to doing just that.

Also, we are working toward an additional aspirational goal to achieve a 50 percent net reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. We are driving technology, infrastructure, operations and sustainable alternative fuel advances to responsibly and effectively limit our fuel consumption, greenhouse gas contribution and potential climate change impacts while allowing commercial aviation to continue to serve as a key contributor to the U.S. economy.

Airlines for America and our member airlines remain committed to working with Congress to see to it that the U.S. holds its position as a global leader in aviation while maintaining the nimble, efficient, reliable and safe system that Americans can count on.

We are proud to be a green engine of the economy and are committed to continuing to lead the way to an increasingly environmentally friendly future.


Nancy Young is the vice president for environmental affairs for Airlines for America, and as an environmental attorney, Young directs the A4A environmental sustainability programs, represents the A4A airlines in international negotiations regarding aircraft noise and emissions standards, and provides counsel on other environmental issues of significance.

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