This is the largest aviation industry step toward climate protection yet

Government leaders and the travel industry have taken a monumental step toward addressing climate change, and the implications are nothing short of astounding.

Major carriers, building off a commitment made at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, have agreed to push for zero net emissions and zero net emissions growth starting 2026.

“That will be the benchmark for all of our fleets, and we think that’s going to show [airlines] are committed to doing the right thing,” said Bob Coffman, Boeing’s chief environmental adviser, at a press conference Monday. “Clearly the industry is focused on eliminating emissions from the environment and also from the aircraft itself.”

United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, and Air Canada have all taken these steps.

We can look to their history of achievement — the 100 percent compliant fleet for the federal air navigation system NextGen was the result of United’s noncompliance in 2006 — for proof that they’re doing the right thing.

With Monday’s announcement, they are laying the groundwork for what will be a profound and unavoidable shift in the way our lives and our economies are run.

Crucially, the announcement doesn’t hinge on government policy. The aviation industry is (likely) going to push for its own self-imposed goals as part of its pre-2020 10-year roadmap. That’s important, because if we can operate our cities, our industrial strategies, and our economies with our survival as a guide, our transportation system won’t be an afterthought.

Going by the timeline, not only will we begin to see major improvements to the climate projections that are being used to plan pollution control and climate mitigation policies, we’ll see a reduction in emissions on a broad scale, leading to reductions in global average temperatures well beyond the 2 degrees Celsius cap agreed to at the Paris summit.

This is why it’s so vitally important to support the bipartisan “Clean Air, Clean Jobs, and Climate Solutions Act” currently making its way through the House that will put us on a safer and more sustainable footing for our future. Congress needs to pass this bill, a move supported by both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, to keep our country moving forward.

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