The EconomistThe Economist

The aviation industry wants to be net zero—but not soon

14 May 2023 · 6 min read

If the aviation industry is to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, tomorrow's fleet would need to be much cleaner than today's. But will it happen? The Economist examines the prospects.

Curated by informed

FLYING IS A dirty business. Airliners account for more than 2% of the annual global emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, many times commercial aviation’s contribution to world GDP. Two forces look poised to push this figure up in the years to come.

First, people love to fly. IATA, the airline industry’s trade body, predicts that 4bn passengers will take to the skies next year, as many as did in 2019, before covid-19 temporarily grounded the sector. Airlines could be hauling around 10bn passengers by mid-century (see chart 1). Boeing, an American planemaker, estimates that this will require the global fleet to roughly double from around 26,000 in 2019 to 47,000 by 2040. After a pandemic blip, investors are more bullish again about the sector’s prospects (see chart 2). Showing its confidence, on May 9th Ryanair, a giant of low-cost air travel, placed an order worth $40bn for 300 new Boeings.

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