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June 14, 2024
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During its Annual General Meeting in Istanbul, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) unveiled a series of roadmaps that should provide that step-by-step detail of all critical actions and dependencies that are required if aviation wants to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Five roadmaps address aircraft technology, energy infrastructure, operations, finance, and policy considerations leading to net zero. IATA outlines net zero strategy with five roadmaps.

“The roadmaps are the first detailed assessment of the key steps necessary to accelerate the transition to net zero by 2050. Together, they show a clear direction and will evolve as we dig deeper to set interim milestones on the way to net zero,” said Director General Willie Walsh in a media statement. The roadmaps follow the adoption of the Long Term Aspirational Goal (LTAG) at ICAO’s 41st Assembly last year when governments and industry committed to reaching the net zero emission goal by 2050.

IATA’s sees the roadmaps as “a critical reference point for policymakers”. “Governments, suppliers, and financiers cannot be spectators in aviation’s decarbonization journey. They have skin in the game. The roadmaps are a call to action for all aviation’s stakeholders to deliver the tools needed to make this fundamental transformation of aviation a success with policies and products fit for a net-zero world,” said Walsh.


The first of five roadmaps looks at aircraft technology. It includes the development of more efficient aircraft and engines. Particularly important are the steps needed to enable aircraft powered by 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), hydrogen, or batteries. All development milestones are backed up by announced investment and demonstrator programs. Also included are new engines, aerodynamics, aircraft structures, and flight systems.

The second focuses on energy and new fuels infrastructure, upstream from airports needed to facilitate the use of aircraft powered by SAF or hydrogen. Renewable energy plays a vital role in meeting the aviation sector’s energy demand, and the roadmap outlines milestones to enable the necessary infrastructure developments.

Roadmap three looks at operations and how more efficient operations can contribute to lower emissions. Automation, big data management, and the integration of new technologies are key enablers for optimizing air traffic management and enhancing the overall efficiency of the air transportation system.

Policy is the fourth roadmap and looks at the need for globally aligned strategic policies to provide incentives and support for the aviation industry’s transition to a net-zero future. As with all other successful energy transitions, collaboration between governments and industry stakeholders is crucial in creating the necessary framework to achieve the decarbonization goals.

The fifth and final roadmap is financing and how the cumulative $5 trillion that is needed for aviation to achieve net zero by 2050 should be funded. This includes technological advancements, infrastructure developments, and operational improvements.

Two uncertainties

“The roadmaps show where all stakeholders should focus their efforts. There are two certainties. By 2050 we need to be at net zero carbon emissions. And the steps to get there that are outlined in these roadmaps will evolve as the industry’s expertise grows. Policy is particularly important early on as it, to a large extent, sets the scene for private sector investors to move. With that, the private sector can decarbonize at scale and with speed,” said Marie Owens Thomsen, SVP of Sustainability and Chief Economist at IATA, in the media statement.

“Without the right policy incentives and bold investments, many of the technologies and innovations simply won’t happen at scale. Everything is related, and that is why we have the five roadmaps to tie all the parallel elements together and give our stakeholders, including governments, a complete understanding of everything that needs to happen,” said Owens Thomsen.

AirInsight will look into more detail at the different roadmaps later this week.

author avatar
Richard Schuurman
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016. Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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