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CEO DATELINE – Airlines for America members commit to reduce carbon emissions

April 5, 2021
By Walt Williams

Airlines for America recently announced that its airline members would see to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with air traffic playing a small but outsized role in climate change.

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In a statement, A4A said its member carriers would work with the government and key stakeholders to develop and produce commercially viable “sustainable aviation fuel,” or SAF, that would reduce carbon emissions from aircraft. The initial goal is to make 2 billion gallons of the fuel available to U.S. aircraft operators by 2030.

“We are proud of our record on climate change. But we know the climate change challenge our country and the world face has only continued to intensify,” A4A CEO Nicholas Calio said. “Today, we embrace the need to take even bolder, more significant steps to address this challenge.”

Many global airlines have already made a net-zero pledge. Members of OneWorld—an alliance of 14 airlines, including A4A member American Airlines—made such a pledge in September 2020. United Airlines, another A4A member, announced a similar commitment in December.  

Air travel only makes up about 2-3% of the annual carbon emissions that contribute to climate change, according to the International Air Transport Association. However, the industry’s impact is viewed as significant given the relatively few people who travel by plane compared to the general population.

Reaching the 2030 goal alone “will require an 84 percent annual average increase in SAF production through 2030,” Calio said. “To move the needle, we must all work together, and the government needs to be an active partner and provide positive infrastructure and other investments to complement our efforts.”

President Joe Biden has made addressing climate change a core tenet of his proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill, although critics on the left argue the legislation doesn’t go far enough and critics on the right say the cost of bill is too much. Calio noted the legislation has tax credits for the production of SAF and spending that could be used to make current airline operations more efficient.

A4A’s 10 members also include passenger airlines and shipping services.