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International aviation

The aviation sector accounts for about 2% of global emissions, though the climate impact of these emissions is magnified due to the release at high altitudes of such pollutants as nitrogen oxides, water vapour, not to mention sulphate and soot particles.

Aviation is an important flagship sector in the climate crisis because of its societal role in connecting people across the globe and its huge per-capita climate impact. The carbon footprint of each flight someone takes is massive, especially for those who fly business or first class or those who take private jets. 

Emissions from aviation have grown faster than for any other form of transportation in recent decades. Despite the temporary dip during the lockdowns and restrictions that accompanied the COVID-19 crisis, emissions from the sector are again close to pre-pandemic levels.

This is a manifestation of the inadequacy of global efforts to control aviation emissions. The main tool for tackling the sector’s carbon footprint is the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), run by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), as part of its so-called carbon-neutral growth target. 

However, this scheme is fundamentally flawed because it only deals with the growth in aviation emissions and it requires airlines only to offset some of the greenhouse gases they pump into the atmosphere rather than reduce them.

What is CMW doing about it?

When it comes to international aviation, Carbon Market Watch focuses on:

  • Observing negotiations and campaigning at ICAO
  • Investigating the impact of the aviation sector’s climate policies
  • Researching and presenting recommendations to ICAO, governments and the aviation industry

Climate change requires turning up the heat on aviation

Climate change requires turning up the heat on aviation

What changes is CMW demanding?

Binding emissions reduction targets for airlines that are in line with the Paris Agreement

Raising the climate ambitions of airlines

Including aviation in domestic, regional and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) policies

The creation of a global cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme for airlines


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Carbon Markets 101 – The ultimate guide to market-based climate mechanisms

This guide gives an introduction to the current state of international carbon credit markets. It lays out key elements of the newly established markets under the Paris Agreement, and the functioning of the voluntary carbon market, which operates outside of the UN system. It concludes with a discussion of the role of these mechanisms in climate action, and how they should and should not be used.


Image: CMW
As holidaymakers travel across the European continent to discover their destinations besieged by record-setting heatwaves and wildfires, the airline industry continues to promote the idea that jet setting need not cost the Earth. The new climate reality suggests otherwise.

The negative climate impact of aviation emissions cannot be offset

International aviation emissions reached 80% of their pre-pandemic peak in 2022

Contact our experts

Sam Van den plas
Policy Director


Eleanor Scott
Expert on EU Carbon Markets


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