The Aviation Impact Accelerator (AIA) is collaborating with the Breakthrough Energy Contrails team to develop tools, aimed at raising public awareness around the climate impact of contrails and the strategies for contrail mitigation.

Contrails are linear clouds of ice crystals that condense on jet engine exhaust emissions and trap thermal radiation, contributing to over 50% of the climate impact stemming from aviation and 2% of the total global warming.

Contrail mitigation strategies, such as avoidance through flight path adjustments, offer a readily deployable low-cost solution, leading to a substantial reduction in aviation’s climate impact. However, present public understanding surrounding the contrail warming impact, and the urgency of its mitigation, is critically limited resulting in limited public pressure for policy action. Consequently, there are no policies and regulations in place to address the climate impact from contrails, although as of June 2023 under the European Commission’s Emissions Trading Scheme operators must also now report non-CO₂ aviation emissions, including contrails, stemming from their flights.

Breakthrough Energy works across technology, policy, and markets to accelerate climate innovation and the world’s journey to a clean energy future. The AIA will be collaborating with Breakthrough Energy’s Contrails team, which builds open tools and methods to advance a roadmap for contrail avoidance across the aviation industry. The Contrails team also leads the cross-sector contrails coalition Reviate which brings together leaders across industry, academia, and government to drive adoption of contrails mitigation methods.

As part of this collaboration, AIA’s public engagement app Contrailkit will be developed further. The Contrailkit app provides the public with a tool to actively participate in citizen science by capturing photographs of contrails observed in the sky using their phones contributing to data for contrails research, whilst learning about the climate impact of contrails. Contrails recorded in real-time are linked to the flight data and used to verify contrail formation criteria using weather data. Contrailkit was developed by Professor Andy Wheeler and Cambridge University student Oscar Saharoy.

Mobile app that links observed contrails to flight data

Breakthrough Energy will contribute its technical expertise and experience in contrail modelling, which will be synergized with the Aviation Impact Accelerator’s tools and capability to communicate intricate concepts to the public. Increased public and consumer engagement and support for action will help pave the way towards contrail mitigation policy, and increase the buy in of airlines, aircraft companies and other aviation industry stakeholders into contrail mitigation.

It has never been more important to work together to tackle the elephant in the room that is aviation’s non-CO2 emissions and strive for truly climate neutral aviation.

For inquiries about this article, please email