Aviation's Environmental Impact

It’s estimated that aviation contributes to 2-3% of global emissions from all man-made sources, but how is that impacting our planet?
Here, we investigate the environmental impact of aviation on wildlife, air quality and other aspects of climate change. Understanding these impacts can help us identify where to take action.

Understanding Mitigation Options

Aviation contributes between 2-3% of global man-made emissions – estimated at 915m tonnes CO2 in 2019, is entirely reliant on fossil-based jet fuel, and adds anywhere between 4-6% of global warming impact from non-CO2 effects (such methane, nitrous oxide, contrails) among other negative impacts, such as noise pollution and waste production.
As other industries decarbonize faster, aviation’s 2-3% share will grow in proportion. All forecasts point up. Passenger demand is expected to grow by 5.6 billion by 2030, and exceed 10 billion by 2050. Emissions from aviation are expected to grow 20% by 2030, and “expected carbon emissions on a ‘business as usual’ trajectory over the 2021-2050 period is approximately 21.2 gigatons of CO2.” 

To address environmental issues in the aviation industry, we need to establish initiatives that will make a difference and contribute to the finding the solutions. To acknowledge the benefits of aviation is to insist upon the true intentions of Sustainability strategies, and understand how they are designed. We realise that true sustainability requires longevity and resilience. Alignment to industry and global schemes permits this, with thorough monitoring and performance indicators.  

With the definition of Net Zero encompassing both direct reductions and industry-backed offsetting, efforts are focused on intensive reduction opportunities that require significant effort – some which are known to us and some of which are yet to be discovered. According to IATA, “the net-zero objective will be met though a combination of maximum elimination of emissions at source and the use of approved offsetting and carbon capture technologies.”


IATA’s Net Zero Resolution, the industry emissions reduction strategy is made up of four mitigation pathways.
Sustainable Aviation Fuels, New technologies, Infrastructure/operations, Offsetting/Carbon Capture. “Overall, achieving net zero is expected to be driven primarily by the increasing deployment of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), next generation aircraft and propulsion technologies, infrastructure and operational improvements, complemented by carbon offsetting/removal of residual emissions.”

As Etihad continues its search for a promising net zero aviation flight path, we aim to be transparent and acknowledge the concerns or ambiguities related to certain claims, describe the complex nature of the task, or justify certain decisions. 

Industry wide, aviation's 'Net Zero' or 'Environmental' roadmaps seek to manage environmental impacts in anticipation of continued growth and increased demand. "The overall objective to continue to develop in a sustainable manner in recognition of the vital role which the aviation sector plays in global economic and social development".

As with all airlines, we have a unique position in the diversity of our audience; individual passengers, corporate customers, suppliers, manufacturers, regulators, and so on. With this global audience, we have the duty to articulate our efforts in their definition, intention and impact. We aim to fulfil that duty with transparency. Read about how we're taking action to reduce the negative impact of Etihad and aviation in our annual Sustainability Report, or read more on our website


When traveling with Etihad and engaging in 'environmental activities', such as supporting tree planting in the Etihad Mangrove Forest or an offset with CarbonClick will not make Etihad's operations more sustainable. Etihad provides these options to travellers who wish to customise their experience with ecologically focused ancillaries, but customers should be aware that this does not make traveling on Etihad Airways a more sustainable option over our competitors. The initiatives we undertake as an airline in our Sustainability strategy are shared mitigation options available to all airlines, and where Etihad is supporting the development of specific solutions, we are commited to making our research and findings available for the entire industry. 

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