Aviation Emissions

Managing the Carbon Footprint of Australian Aviation


Australia's civil aviation sector (both domestic and international) contributed a total of 17.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) emissions in 2011 according to the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2011. This corresponded to 3.1% of Australia's total emissions from domestic economic sectors and international bunkers (fuel sold for international transport) in 2011 that year. Of Australia's total aviation emissions in 2011, 60.0% was due to international operations and the remainder to domestic operations.

Australia's transport industry as a whole (including international bunkers) contributed 17.7% of the nation's total emissions in 2011. Of the transport total, 17.7% was due to aviation emissions.

Domestic versus International Emissions

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), domestic and international aviation are treated separately. Domestic aviation emissions are counted as part of country targets while international aviation emissions are dealt with separately by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The integrated global nature of international aviation means that effective action on international aviation emissions requires a concerted effort by all countries. Australia is actively working through ICAO to develop goals and practical measures for reducing aviation emissions.

At the 38th ICAO Assembly in October 2013, Member States reaffirmed their commitment to work through ICAO to achieve a global annual average fuel efficiency improvement of 2 per cent until 2050 and to strive to achieve carbon neutral growth for international aviation from 2020. Member States continued to support the voluntary submission of State Action Plans to ICAO which outline respective state policies and measures in helping to achieve ICAO's global aspirational goals. As of 30 June 2013, 61 Member States, representing 78.9 per cent of global international air traffic, had submitted their Action Plans to ICAO.

Australia submitted its first Action Plan on managing Australia's aviation carbon emissions to ICAO in November 2012. Australia updated its Action Plan DOCX: 5773 KB PDF: 824 KB with a new edition approved by the Minister in September 2017.

Improving Efficiency Through New Technology

Air Traffic Management

Australia's air navigation service provider, Airservices Australia, has implemented a range of measures to improve fuel efficiency such as flexible flight tracks, improved air traffic control sequencing, continuous descent approaches and better management of aircraft on the ground. Airservices Australia is also working with air navigation service providers of the United States, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and Thailand to improve efficiencies on key Asian and trans-Pacific routes through the Asia and Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE).


Australian airlines are introducing newer, more fuel efficient aircraft into their fleets such as the A380, A320neo, B787 and B737-800 aircraft. The B737-800 aircraft, which is in common use on domestic routes, is about 20 percent more fuel efficient than earlier B737 models. Airlines will continue to refine their operational procedures to minimise fuel use, including reduction in weight of cabin items and reduction of engine ground running time. Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia have also introduced voluntary carbon offset schemes which enable passengers to purchase carbon offsets for their flights. Jetstar and Virgin Australia have reported that approximately 10% of passengers are buying offsets—a figure that is high by international standards.


Australia's airports are also putting in place a range of measures to manage their contribution to climate change issues. In particular, measures include green star rated commercial developments on airports, energy and water audits, recycling and creation of biodiversity zones.

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Last Updated: 20 September, 2017