Page 28 - European Energy Innovation - Summer 2016 publication
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28  Summer 2016 European Energy Innovation


The sustainable future of aviation:
how the industry can achieve its
climate goals

By Michael Gill, Executive Director, Air Transport Action Group

Air transport is a vital feature          roughly 2% of man-made carbon               Aviation’s third goal is the long-term
               of our modern, globalised  emissions. Our industry recognises          challenge for the industry. Carbon-
               world, connecting people   that our operations contribute to           neutral growth is a holding measure,
               and businesses across      climate change and we are taking the        rather than a solution in itself. Reducing
oceans and continents. Without air        responsibility to lessen this impact        overall emissions by half is no easy
connectivity, our societies would be      extremely seriously.                        task, but work is already underway to
unrecognisable. To truly appreciate the                                               lay the foundations. This goal can only
benefits of aviation, one only needs      In 2008, aviation leaders came together     be achieved through technological
to look at the numbers. The global        to put in place a set of global carbon      development and innovation,
aviation industry employs roughly 63      reduction goals, the first such goals       something which the aviation industry
million people and accounts for 3.5% of   made by any international transport         has a strong track record in.
global GDP ($2.7 trillion).               industry. They are to:
                                                                                      New, disruptive, technologies
The benefits of air travel are clear,     • achieve a 1.5% average annual             are needed to cut CO2 emissions
but this connectivity comes with an           increase across the sector until 2020;  drastically, whilst also preserving the
environmental cost. In 2014, civil                                                    economic growth that air transport
aviation, as a whole, emitted around      • ensure carbon-neutral growth from         enables. This can take the form of
739 million tonnes of CO2, which is           2020; and                               entirely new aircraft and engine
                                                                                      designs, powered by means other than
                                          • cut overall emissions to half of what     fossil-based fuels. Research is already
                                              they were in 2005 by 2050.              underway on hybrid-electric, and even
                                                                                      fully-electric, aircraft. However, this is
                                          Aviation is approaching the challenge       unlikely to materialise for a number of
                                          of achieving these goals through a          decades. In the meantime, innovation
                                          four-pillar strategy: developing new        in energy supply, fitting in with current
                                          technology, more efficient operations,      technology, is required.
                                          better infrastructure (particularly in
                                          air traffic management) and a market-       This is where sustainable alternative
                                          based measure for aviation CO2              fuels enter the picture in aviation’s
                                          emissions.                                  climate strategy. This fuel is almost
                                                                                      chemically identical to traditional jet
                                          These goals are ambitious, but they         fuel, but has a far lower environmental
                                          are achievable, and the strategy the        impact. Some sustainable alternative
                                          industry has in place is bearing fruit.     fuels can be up to 80% less carbon-
                                          We are already more than meeting            intensive over their lifecycle. This fuel
                                          our first goal, with an average annual      can either recycle the carbon used to
                                          fuel efficiency of 2.4% since 2009.         grow feedstock, if it is crop-based, or
                                          Our ability to achieve the goal of          in the case of waste-to-fuel processes,
                                          carbon-neutral growth is expected to        merely use carbon that would have
                                          be enhanced later this year, when the       been emitted into the atmosphere to
                                          ICAO Assembly convenes to decide on         power an aircraft. This makes these
                                          the implementation of a global market-      alternative fuels sustainable.
                                          based measure for aviation emissions
                                          growth, likely to take the form of a        In the early years of biofuel used in the
                                          mandatory offsetting scheme.                road sector, a great deal of controversy

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