CO2 emissions from commercial aviation: 2013, 2018, and 2019

Tracking progress

This report updates a working paper released last year, and details a global, transparent, and geographically allocated carbon dioxide (CO2) inventory for three years of commercial aviation. For the first time, we estimate absolute emissions and carbon intensity per passenger by both seating class and aircraft class. While results show that global passenger operations are becoming more fuel-efficient, this is not happening fast enough to offset traffic growth. Commercial traffic has increased nearly four times faster than fuel efficiency improvement, and passenger aircraft CO2 emissions increased 33% between 2013 and 2019. Additionally, the large share of emissions from premium seating suggests that carbon pricing for aviation could be improved and made more equitable by reflecting the emissions increase from passengers in first class and business class.

The authors provide the data describing passenger operations and CO2 emissions by country in the Excel file below.

Some key findings:

  • CO2 emissions from all commercial operations in 2019 totaled 918 million metric tons, an increase of 29% since 2013. 85% of emissions derive from passenger transport.
  • On average, passenger aviation emitted 90 grams of CO2 per passenger-kilometer in 2019, a decrease of 2% from 2018 and of 12% from 2013. Thus, airlines remain on track to meet their goal to improve fuel efficiency by 2% per year for international flights.
  • The three largest passenger markets in 2019 were the United States (23% of CO2), the European Union (19%), and China (13%). Collectively, they accounted for more than half of CO2 from passenger operations.
  • 19% of CO2 from commercial aviation in 2019 was linked to passenger movement in premium seating (first and business classes), higher than the share from air freight. A passenger in premium class emitted 2.6 to 4.3 times more CO2 per kilometer than a passenger in economy class, depending on aircraft class.
Figure. CO2 emissions by operations and aircraft seating class, 2019.

GACA public data sheet
GACA fact sheet (English)
GACA fact sheet (Spanish)
GACA fact sheet (Mandarin Chinese)
GACA fact sheet (German)
GACA fact sheet (French)
GACA fact sheet (Portuguese)