Cleaning Up the Skies

From developing sustainable fuels to changing infrastructure, a global aviation coalition is embarking on a comprehensive path to achieve net-zero emissions
The aviation industry has a significant carbon footprint
The aviation industry has a significant carbon footprint

Every time we fly, we contribute to the significant carbon footprint generated by the global aviation industry, which, according to The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT),&nbspstands at 2.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And that figure is expected to increase exponentially as travel gets back to pre-pandemic days.

The post-pandemic global passenger traffic may take some time to recover, but IATA has predicted that the number of people flying is expected to increase significantly, potentially doubling to 8.2 billion in 2037 from 4.4 billion in 2018.

As the world tries to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C by the middle of this century, airlines all over the world have been trying to clean up their act. Recently, a group of 10 global airlines, announced the formation of a non-profit coalition - the Aviation Climate Taskforce (ACT) which is aimed at cutting carbon emissions in aviation. ACT founding members include Air Canada, Air France-KLM, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Southwest Airlines Co., United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.

ACT will nurture innovation with several initiatives that will address the carbon emissions of the industry, including improving aircraft efficiency, developing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), and creating aircraft which use low or zero carbon propulsion systems (eg, electric or hydrogen-based). They will focus on critical medium-term solutions right now - like developing synthetic fuel and usage of direct air capture. Later, ACT will include near-term solutions like bio-based SAF pathways, and long-term solutions like hydrogen tech.

ACT plans to launch an investment fund to provide capital to rapidly scale-up emerging technologies that have the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of air travel. 

&ldquoWe need SAF to be just as accessible as oil and new engine technologies to come to market exponentially faster if we are going to meet industry goals," said&nbspAmelia DeLuca, Delta&rsquos Managing Director of Sustainability. "These coalitions help us more effectively impact our carbon footprint by pooling together resources and funding to define the next chapter of sustainable aviation.&rdquo

Meanwhile, the COP26 Glasgow talks witnessed a Transport Day where the agenda was focused on decarbonising global transport. Players from the aviation industry outlined how they would achieve climate goals. Several airlines, airports and aircraft and engine manufacturers made a global commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition (ICAC) was launched on Transport Day with a statement from the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps "From our roads to the skies, the transition to zero emission transport has reached a tipping point. We know that transport plays a key role saving the planet from warming above 1.5 degree C, which is why this is the COP that will kick start our ambition for zero emission aviation and why I'm proud to be uniting world leaders to tackle climate change-creating new opportunities for clean growth, green jobs, and improved air quality right across the globe."

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