International Aviation

Critically Insufficient4°C+
Highly insufficient< 4°C
Insufficient< 3°C
2°C Compatible< 2°C
1.5°C Paris Agreement Compatible< 1.5°C
Role model<< 1.5°C


The CAT rates international aviation’s targeted emissions level in 2030 under its carbon neutral growth goal as ‘critically insufficient’. The ‘critically insufficient’ rating indicates that the international aviation target is consistent with warming of greater than 4°C if all other sectors were to follow the same approach.


The rating methodology applied for international aviation and shipping policies is different from the CAT nationally determined contribution (NDC) “fair share” rating system. “Fair share” effort-sharing principles cannot easily be applied to sectors such as international aviation and shipping. To do so would require the attribution of GHG emissions from these sectors to countries, which is not a straightforward exercise. Therefore, we have developed a new methodology to determine a Paris Agreement-compatible emissions pathway for international aviation and the sector’s climate targets and policies.

CAT country NDC “fair share” assessments rate an individual country’s nationally determined contribution, against effort sharing benchmarks. The Climate Action Tracker’s “fair share” range rating system is based on published scientific literature on what a country’s total contribution would need to be to make a fair contribution to implementing the Paris agreement. In order to make a fair contribution to meeting the Paris Agreement’s goals, developed countries need to make both domestic emission reductions and assist poorer countries reduce their emissions. This means that a country’s total NDC "fair share" action range is the total sum of domestic reductions plus emission reductions overseas (from climate finance, providing means or implementation or acquisition of emission units, if those are in turn discounted in the host country). Thus, in addition to domestic emissions reduction targets, the “fair share” NDC emissions reduction range as estimated by the CAT would almost always require a developed country to provide enough climate finance, or support via other means of implementation to bring the total emissions reduction contribution of that country down to the required “fair share” level.

To rate international aviation and marine sectors we start out with the observation that to achieve the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal, global CO2 emissions need to reach net-zero around mid-century (IPCC, 2018). If the aviation sector decarbonises later than mid-century, other sectors would need to reach net-zero carbon emissions sooner, and/ or deployment of corresponding negative emission technologies will be needed. To reflect that different sectors should share the decarbonisation burden, we applied the principle that aviation should decarbonise at the same average rate as emissions from energy and industrial processes, thereby taking a comparable share of emissions efforts. This implies that international aviation (together with all emissions from energy and industrial processes) should reach zero CO2 emissions by around 2060.

For this assessment, we have taken the global CO2emission pathways for energy and industrial processes that are provided for by Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) and assessed in the IPCCSR1.5. We filtered these pathways to exclude those that exceed sustainability limits for Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU), as defined in the IPCC SR1.5. This gave us 19 scenarios that are consistent with the Paris Agreement and that we define as “CAT Filtered Pathways” (Yanguas Parra et al., 2019). This is the same filtering approach that we used for developing the fair share ratings used in individual country assessments.

We have also extracted pathways that lead to a temperature increase between 1.5˚C-2˚C; between 2˚C-3 ˚C; between 3˚C-4˚C; and >4˚C from the IPCC IAM Database, so we have five sets of pathways that correspond to one temperature category each.

From each pathway set, we took the median emission levels between 2000 and 2100, with ten-year intervals. Using these median levels, we then calculated the annual growth rate for each temperature pathway and applied the growth rates to latest historical data for international aviation emissions, provided for by the IEA. The latest available data is for the year 2017. This approach differs slightly to that adopted for international shipping, where the growth rate was applied to the historical average for the period of 2007-2017 and is due to the fact that emissions in that sector have fluctuated greatly, whereas emissions from international aviation have increased steadily since 1990.

This exercise supplied us with five temperature pathways, leading to global temperature increases ranging from 1.5˚C to over 4˚C compared to pre-industrial levels. We have assigned a rating to each of these temperature categories: 1.5˚C Paris Agreement compatible, 2˚C compatible, correspond to those temperatures, while the insufficient, highly insufficient and critically insufficient ratings correspond to between 2˚C-3˚C; between 3˚C-4˚C; and >4˚C, respectively. While we use the same terms as for the individual country assessments, the definition of the ‘insufficient’ rating is different. For countries, these equates to the top of their fair share range, while for international aviation and shipping this rate equates to a temperature range.

The 1.5˚C pathway reflects the maximum level of international aviation emissions for the sector to be rated as ‘Paris compatible’.

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