Discussion paper


Civil aviation emissions reductions under COVID-19 in Australia and globally and the potential long-term impacts to emissions in the sector
Aviation Emission reduction Carbon emissions Australia
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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major economic and societal disruption. Civil aviation has been severely impacted. Travel bans and restrictions across the globe have caused a substantial decrease in air traffic demand and thousands of flights have been cancelled worldwide as the virus continues to spread.

Key findings:

  • COVID19 related cuts to commercial air traffic has already resulted in approximately a 10.3 Mt reduction in global CO2 emissions over February and March 2020.
  • International Air Transport Association (IATA) now projects a 38% cut to air travel in 2020 which equates to a 352.7 Mt fall in global civil aviation emissions compared to 2019, and a 8.8 Mt CO2 fall in Australian aviation emissions compared to 2019 (37% decrease).
  • Emissions from Australian commercial aviation could decrease by up to 13.2Mt CO2 in 2020 (56% decrease from 2019) under an extreme scenario of continual grounding of most Qantas and Virgin planes for 9 months.
  • Business travel may not rebound to 2019 levels, given the systemic shift to online conferencing and communication and weakened corporate budgets post-COVID19.
  • Under the UN deal on international aviation emissions, major airlines have committed to carbon neutrality using 2020 as the baseline year, which could end up as a record low year for emissions. 


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