Philanthropy helps aviation decarbonisation goals advance – but more is needed


Alliance magazine


The aviation sector contributes five per cent of total global greenhouse gases. With demand for air travel expected to triple by 2050, decarbonisation of aviation is a critical climate objective – yet there has never been much philanthropic support for helping air travel get to net zero.

Green intermediary funder ClimateWorks Foundation is hoping that will change, following a new ambitious target set by the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation challenging the aviation sector to reach net zero by 2050. The goal was adopted during the ICAO’s 41st General Assembly in Montreal, Canada, and will challenge ICAO’s 193 member states to commit to putting their aviation sectors on a path compatible with the Paris Agreement goal to limit global temperature increase to 1.5° C.

‘There are no silver bullets for aviation decarbonisation’, ClimateWorks said in a statement.

Efforts to decarbonise can include some combination of the scaling up of sustainable aviation fuel, including synthetic fuels; the electrification of short-haul flights; the development of hydrogen-powered aircraft; a shift in consumer behavior, including demand reduction and modal shifts; and the mitigation of non-CO2 effects, which are often overlooked.

According to the ClimateWorks transportation sector brief released in July 2021, only three funders are active in the aviation sector.

ClimateWorks leads the only philanthropic programme designed to address the climate impacts of aviation globally, and said: ‘While our grantmaking has contributed to progress on aviation decarbonization, we will need greater philanthropic investment to meet the challenge and opportunity of net-zero aviation.’

The foundation has long supported environmental organisation that comprise the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), which acts as official civil society observers at ICAO and has also contributed analysis and expertise to demonstrate that a pathway net-zero aviation by 2050 is possible. The engagement and research of ICSA’s members helped support ICAO’s goal of a net zero aviation sector by 2050.

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