The International Air Transport Association has outlined a proposal to the United Nations under which airlines will aim to halve emissions by 2050.
Carriers will also set a target of improving carbon efficiency by 1.5% annually in the run-up to 2020 and, from then on, stabilise emissions through carbon-neutral growth.
The industry put the proposals before a UN summit on climate change in New York last week, ahead of a key convention on the subject in Copenhagen in December.
IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani says a "patchwork" of emerging national and regional schemes will not address the environmental problem.
"We need a global approach for this industrial sector if we are to deal with climate change effectively," he says.
Bisignani describes the 2020 target as "aggressive", but says the strategy of concentrating on four areas - technology, infrastructure, operations and economic measures - is "already showing results".
He says emissions from aviation are projected to fall by 2% this year because of this strategy, on top of a 5% decline attributed to the economic crisis.