British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh has unveiled a pledge by the aviation industry to slash carbon dioxide emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2050.
The agreement between airlines, airports and aircraft companies will be presented to world leaders at the UN's climate summit in New York.
It will mean increased air fares and is also likely to prompt a race for green technologies among aircraft manufacturers.
The plan is thought to be an attempt to seize the initiative before December's UN climate conference in Copenhagen, where environmental groups are expected to harangue the aviation industry over its growing emissions.
Mr Walsh said: "International aviation emissions were not included in the Kyoto protocol 12 years ago. Now we have a chance to rectify that omission, and we must seize it. Our proposals represent the most environmentally effective and practical means of reducing aviation's carbon impact. They are the best option for the planet and we urge the UN to adopt them."
The proposals drawn up by members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) including reducing net carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2050, compared with 2005 levels, making all industry growth carbon-neutral by 2020 and cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5% per year over the next decade.
The aviation industry is responsible for 1.6% of global emissions of greenhouse gases but will become the biggest emitter in the developed world if it continues to grow at its current rate.
Earlier this month, an independent advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, warned the Government that aviation will produce a quarter of all emissions in the developed world even if they are capped at 2005 levels by 2050.
Virgin Atlantic, backing the pledge, said: "Virgin Atlantic is signed up to the aviation industry's environmental pledge announced today. We have led the way in the industry in finding solutions to cut carbon emissions."
But environmental campaigners warned that Government intervention was still necessary to prevent UK airport expansion. Greenpeace described the announcement as little more than an "elaborate conjuring trick" and "corporate greenwash".