Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Sixty-five countries reach landmark deal to cap aviation emissions

The agreement, which will come into effect in 2025, came after nearly two weeks of talks at The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Some 65 countries reached a landmark agreement Thursday to cap greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels through a market mechanism that will see airlines spend billions of dollars on GHG-reduction projects around the world.

The agreement came after nearly two weeks of talks at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations body that oversees the industry. Canadian carriers supported the effort to establish a global approach to carbon pollution.

"WestJet applauds the International Civil Aviation Organization and its members for today reaching this significant agreement on a global, sector-wide approach for emissions management for carbon-neutral growth in 2020," Mike McNaney, the company's vice-president for industry and corporate affairs, said in a release.

Story continues below advertisement

He noted that WestJet has achieved a 45-per-cent improvement in fuel efficiency for its fleet of aircraft .

The agreement takes effect in 2025 with a voluntary phase for the first six years, and is then mandatory.

Read more: Aviation emissions resolution is a litmus test for carbon pricing

Read more: Canada's new emissions plan poses a threat to Alberta oil industry

Read more: Bombardier puts C Series up for environmental scrutiny

Canada's Transport Minister Mark Garneau said the deal represents a significant achievement in the battle against climate change. "This is the first sectoral initiative toward the reduction of greenhouse gas since COP21 in Paris, and I am extremely proud of the leadership role that Canada played in the negotiation of this global deal," he said.

So far, 65 countries, including the United States and China, have indicated they will participate. However, Russia doesn't currently plan to participate in the voluntary phase, and India expressed reservations with portions of the pact.

Story continues below advertisement

The agreement has the backing of the airline industry even though it could cost airlines an estimated $5.3-billion (U.S.) annually in the early years and as much as $23.9-billion a year by 2035. Airlines spent $181-billion on fuel last year. For passengers in countries like Canada, the extra cost will range from 50 cents on shorter, cross-border flights to $7 on long-haul routes.

Environmentalists hailed the agreement, although they said more work is required to ensure the offset system is transparent and rigorous.

"Achieving carbon-neutral growth from 2020 is a significant step in its own right. And with robust implementation, the market-based measure can serve as a springboard to greater ambition, not only for the aviation sector, but – through market linkages worldwide – also for emitting sectors more broadly," said Nathaniel Keohane, vice-president with the U.S.-based Environmental Defense Fund.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Global Energy Reporter

Shawn McCarthy is an Ottawa-based, national business correspondent for The Globe and Mail, covering a global energy beat. He writes on various aspects of the international energy industry, from oil and gas production and refining, to the development of new technologies, to the business implications of climate-change regulations. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.