How governments can help decarbonise aviation
- Decarbonizing aviation is only possible with the support of both international political leadership and public-private collaboration.
- Cabinet ministers from five countries yesterday launched the Group of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) Ambassadors, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
- Chaired by the UK in its role as chair of the UNFCCC COP26, the five governments of Kenya, the Netherlands, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom have committed to collectively develop a “ innovative policy toolkit to support the large-scale deployment of the SAF.
Although the devastating COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a drastic drop in air travel and aviation emissions, air travel is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels and beyond soon. Public health responses will allow a return to freedom of movement and personal mobility over the next several years, and planes will return to the skies and continue to facilitate the personal and economic benefits provided by the aviation industry.
At pre-pandemic levels, aviation was responsible for 2-3% of overall global emissions – with an even greater climate impact including factors other than CO2 like nitrous oxide and contrails.. Existing forecasts from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) still predict significant growth in air transport throughout the 2020s, highlighting the need for an aviation energy transition.
Yet the emissions reduction technologies needed for this transition are still not on a large scale. Even though travel continues at reduced levels, the industry’s emissions profile does not match global emission reduction targets.
Sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), derived from renewable sources ranging from household waste to industrial CO2 emissions, are an essential technology for the sector to meet its sustainability goals. Currently deployed SAF technologies can deliver emissions savings of up to 80% compared to conventional fossil jet fuel – with other SAF technologies in development achieving 100% lifecycle emission reductions.
The aviation industry itself has made significant investments in energy efficiency and in next-generation fuels like SAF, but the deployment challenges are complex, systemic and costly; supportive regulatory frameworks and public funding mechanisms are needed to move things forward. Gradual improvements are no longer able to achieve the necessary emission reductions and it takes both political leadership and smart policies to reach a tipping point in scaling up sustainable aviation fuel.
Political leadership needed
Despite the immediate crises of the global pandemic, industry and governments recognize the need for long-term planning to avoid the devastating potential of the slow-burning disaster of climate change. Implementing a systems thinking perspective on reactionary policies and short-term frameworks is a challenge, and the transition from a “hard to shrink” industry like aviation is not easy. Public-private collaboration across national borders is needed to achieve lasting change.
The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), as the “ world forum of states for international civil aviation ”, has adopted the carbon offset and reduction program for the international aviation (CORSIA) in 2016, marking an inflection point in international aviation. CORSIA is not perfect, but the work of ICAO sets the overall policy framework for the aviation industry. By setting a carbon neutral growth ambition for aviation, the agreement was an important and necessary step.
Progressive actions by individual governments – whether on sustainable aviation fuel or other environmental policies – are where the real change is happening.
Yet individual states themselves have the power and responsibility to design and implement a long-term decarbonization vision and policies to achieve these goals. Progressive actions by individual governments – whether on sustainable aviation fuel or other environmental policies – are where the real change is happening.
Regulatory harmonization is of course essential to enable efficient technology operations and deployment, especially in an international sector such as aviation. But to support sustainable aviation fuel, where the raw materials and energy sources available vary widely by geography, it remains important that each market develops policies that are tailored to the market.
In recognition of this responsibility, ministers from Kenya, the Netherlands, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom on Wednesday launched the Group of Ambassadors on Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), working with and advising the Forum global economy as a whole. Clean skies for tomorrow (CST) initiative. As an advisory partner of the CST, ICAO Secretary General Mr. Fang Liu also joined the launch to provide advice and support.
Chaired by the United Kingdom in its role as President of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), these five founding governments are committed to leading by example by innovating and implementing new policy ideas. to support the scale-up of SAF.
The CST coalition serves as a global mechanism for business and public leaders across the aviation value chain to facilitate the sustainable energy transition of aviation with a particular focus on SAFs. The SAF Ambassadors Group will partner with existing coalition members to develop and deploy policy solutions and boost ambition at state and regional levels.
Robert Courts, UK Minister of Aviation and an Ambassador for SAF stressed the importance of such collaborations to bring practical and applicable policy proposals to COP26. The courts have said: “Sustainable aviation fuels have enormous potential – delivering significant emissions savings and supporting the creation of thousands of new jobs around the world. As COP26 approaches, it is important that we seize these opportunities and, in our role as SAF Ambassadors, we will lead the charge to promote the adoption of these vital fuels around the world.
Christoph Wolff, Head of Mobility at the World Economic Forum, said: “The Forum A clean sky for tomorrow The coalition provides a leading example of international cooperation between industry and the public sector to enable the global aviation industry to achieve carbon neutral flights. ”
Wednesday’s ministerial meeting marks the first in a series of high-level and policy-making discussions that will take place over the next six months and culminate in the public launch of policy measures in support of SAF at COP26.
These meetings and collaborations are key steps in creating new policy solutions and approaches. Once these are in place, industry will receive the support it needs to accelerate its energy transition and more sustainably connect societies and economies around the world.
CST SAF Ambassadors welcome the possibility of other countries joining the initiative. For more information on the Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition and the SAF Ambassador Group, please contact [email protected]