UN aviation agency members on Friday, October 7 set the year 2050 as their goal for achieving net-zero carbon emissions for air travel -- an industry often criticized for its outsized role in climate change.
The assembly, which brought together representatives from 193 nations at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)headquarters in Montreal, reached a "historic agreement on a collective long-term aspirational goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050!" the United Nations agency said on Twitter.
It added that it "continues to advocate for much more ambition and investment by states to ensure aviation is fully decarbonized by 2050 or earlier."
"It's an excellent result," a diplomatic source told AFP, revealing that only four countries -- including China, the main thrust of global growth in air travel -- "had expressed reservations."
The agreement, however, was far from satisfying for some non-governmental organizations expressing regret it didn't go far enough and was not legally binding.
The air transportation industry has faced growing pressure to deal with its outsized role in the climate crisis.
Currently responsible for 2.5 percent to three percent of global CO2 emissions, the sector's switch to renewable fuels is proving difficult, even if the aeronautics industry and energy companies are seeking progress.
The International Air Transport Association said airlines were "strongly encouraged" by the adoption of the climate goal, coming one year after the IATA endorsed the same position at its own general meeting.
IATA director general Willie Walsh said now "we expect much stronger policy initiatives in key areas of decarbonization such as incentivizing the production capacity of sustainable aviation fuels."
According to airlines, it will require massive investments -- $1.55 trillion between 2021 and 2050 -- to decarbonize aviation.
"The global aviation community welcomes this landmark agreement," said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, head of Airports Council International which represents 1,950 airports in 185 countries.
"This is a watershed moment in the effort to decarbonize the aviation sector with both governments and industry now heading in the same direction, with a common policy framework," he said in a statement.
Planes in general attract particularly sharp criticism because only about 11 percent of the world's population fly each year, according to a widely quoted 2018 study by Nordic researchers.
In addition, 50 percent of airline emissions come from the one percent of travelers who fly the most, it found.