climate action in aviation an inspiring challenge
May 14, 2019
The aviation industry should be inspired by its role in the fight against climate change, according to one of its sustainability leaders. Michael Gill, the Executive Director of the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) told the Global Sustainable Aviation Forum that recent United Nations reports on climate coupled with increased awareness by members of the public highlighted the fact that the time for action is now.
“Ten years ago, the aviation industry set one of the first long-term goals for any single sector: to reduce our net CO2 emissions in 2050 to half of what they were in 2005. For a growing industry like air transport, halving emissions is a considerable challenge, particularly when you layer global politics on top of necessary climate action.
“Fulfilling our climate obligations will be hard, but it is not a task which we can avoid. Indeed, we should be inspired by the challenge to engineer new technology aircraft and improve operational elements. We also need to accelerate work now to bring about a genuine energy transition in aviation, away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable energy sources.”
Already, nearly 180,000 commercial flights have been made on sustainable aviation fuel, usually produced from waste resources. What is currently a very small proportion of overall fuel use, the next few years will see sustainable fuel production commence at a number of new facilities currently under construction or financing.
“To reach a commercialization tipping point – around two percent of our fuel supply by 2025 – will require some seven billion liters of SAF a year. Current estimates show that production facilities to meet half that volume have already been announced. Importantly, we need to ensure that the output from those facilities is directed to aviation and not road transport which should be transitioning to electricity – governments have a key role to play in setting the right policy track for that. Let us push ourselves and help activate not just the coming six years of fuel supply, but what has to become the main source of aviation energy in the coming decades.”
Gill also called for governments meeting at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to reaffirm support for CORSIA, a globally-agreed system to offset the growth in international aviation emissions from 2021.
“CORSIA is a key mid-term measure to deal with the growth in international aviation emissions. Governments must recognize that global standards help boost ambition everywhere. The only way to ensure full coverage is to work alongside fellow states to help get more volunteers and to ratchet up CORSIA’s ambition. The next two years are crucial to getting this system underway. The industry is fully on board and airlines are already complying with the initial stages. With 80 States volunteering for the early phase of CORSIA, around 80% of the growth in international aviation emissions will be covered. Let’s boost this level and deliver a robust offsetting process on which we can all rely.”