At the 72nd IATA AGM in Dublin, airlines overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging governments to adopt a single global carbon offset mechanism to address carbon emissions from international aviation at the 39th ICAO Assembly in September.

But this is just one tool in the industry’s armoury as it looks to achieve its stated target of reducing carbon emissions by half in 2050 compared with 2005.

A high-level panel at the AGM discussed the target, especially the tough timeline. While 2050 sounds distant, John-Paul Clarke, a Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology warned that decisions need to be made within the next decade. The timelines involved in bringing new aircraft to market, in airspace redesign, and in airport development are such that choices need to be made well in advance of the deadline.

Fuel price uncertainty is making these big investment decisions harder while Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO, noted that infrastructure is a “big, big issue that is going to get worse before it gets better.”

Nevertheless, the panel offered a way forward. Joyce revealed that a London-Sydney flight generates about 1TB of data. How that data is used could be the key to making the right choices to get aviation to its ambitious 2050 target.

Angela Gittens, ACI Director General, said analysing the vast quantities of data should never just be an accountancy exercise. Nevertheless, “what you don’t measure, you can’t manage.” Joyce concurred, noting that measurement also gives rise to targets, a key element of aviation’s environment strategy.

Passion, transparency and a willingness to work hard were also highlighted by the panel, as was the need to keep other air transport stakeholders, including governments, fully engaged. As Joyce pointed out, “airlines can’t do it all on their own.”