Air transport connections remain economically critical, and the industry’s commitment to net zero emissions make it fit for purpose in a post-pandemic, climate-challenged world
Over half of all tourists who travel internationally arrive at their destinations by air, underscoring the critical role played by air transport connections in supporting the many economic benefits that international tourism generates for businesses large and small.
This economic activity is especially critical for the overall prosperity and sustainability of least developed countries, small island developing states and landlocked developing countries, but in a world of increasingly complex supply chains and international tourism flows, it has become essential for all countries everywhere.
Since the adoption of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the International Civil Aviation Organization has been illustrating how international air connectivity serves as a key enabler for 15 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
These positive impacts are realised due in part to air transport’s diverse contributions to the rapid global transport of food and medical supplies, and its education and career paths related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics for young women and men in all world regions.
They are also being achieved in light of aviation’s many direct and indirect influences on infrastructure modernisation, and on the ability of national and municipal governments to achieve more resilient tax bases and investments in sustainable development.
A key priority for after the Covid-19 pandemic, as governments and industry continue working together to reconnect the world and its travellers and businesses, is to reduce air transport emissions, even as the global network recovers the many flights and routes that were lost to Covid-19.
Countries have made important progress on this topic through ICAO, and states adopted a net zero 2050 long-term climate goal for international aviation at ICAO’s 41st assembly this September.
Currently countries are discussing agreement on a global long-term aspirational goal, but it is my personal hope that they will go as far as the world now requires and agree that net zero 2050 should be a concrete commitment, just as the aviation industry has now collectively agreed to. G20 members could play an important leadership
role in making this diplomatic objective a reality.
The themes of ICAO’s assembly were innovation and resilience, with a strong thread of sustainability informing each. This speaks to how the incredible advances in aeronautics, renewable energy and propulsion, and digital processes and communications have the capacity to transform our global network significantly, and to make it far better fit for purpose for a post-pandemic and climate-challenged world.
The electrification of smaller aircraft and fleets is already under way, and recent advances in lithium-air battery energy density of up to 500 watt hours per kilogramme are highly promising in terms of making electric propulsion a reality for larger commercial aircraft.
ICAO organises special ‘stocktaking’ events where countries can stay abreast of these types of developments, and we are working at every level in the organisation today to assure that countries and experts can assess the latest innovations and standardise them for global deployment far more efficiently than was previously the case.
Additional and complementary innovations have also arisen in the areas of digital traveller identification and health documentation, with ICAO-related developments such as its Visible Digital Seal technology and Health Master List making important recent contributions.
This is part of an overall digital transformation of the passenger experience, with key implications for how travellers will be screened in the future for both health and security purposes. ICAO has been proud to support the related efforts of the G20 Health Working Group throughout 2022, bringing our technical tools, know-how and experience to the forefront of the international conversation on safe and expedited international travel.
G20 members play an important role today in driving global progress in a diverse range of areas, whether through their leadership, subsidies and commitments, or their key investments in developing countries. In aviation today, this leadership is needed more than ever to realise a sustainable future for tourism and trade.
ICAO therefore was pleased to welcome G20 leadership at our assembly this year, and to welcome the solutions determined there that will let all countries, peoples and businesses continue to benefit and prosper from being better connected by air.