In a show of commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, airlines worldwide are calling for governments to add large-scale incentives for the rapid expansion of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).
1. SAF for net zero CO2 emissions
To fulfil aviation’s net zero commitment, current estimates are for SAF to account for 65% of aviation’s carbon mitigation in 2050. For this to happen, an annual production capacity of 449 billion litres must be prioritised by governments, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in a press statement.
By 2025, investment in SAF should deliver an annual production from the current 125 million litres to 5 billion. By 2030, with effective government incentives, IATA says, production could reach a tipping point for SAF production and utilisation, reaching 30 billion litres.
IATA’s General Manager Willie Walsh said that government incentives for clean aviation fuel can be similar to those used for electricity production to increase the share of renewable energies.
With similar incentives for SAF, we could see 30 billion litres available by 2030. Though still far from where we need to be, it would be a clear tipping point towards our net zero ambition of ample SAF quantities at affordable prices.Willie Walsh, IATA’s General Manager
Gvts need to put in place large-scale incentives to rapidly expand the use of #SAF as aviation pursues its commitment to achieving #NetZero carbon emissions by 2050.— IATA (@IATA) June 21, 2022
3️⃣ 0️⃣ billion liter/year tipping point within reach.https://t.co/JHvk8IHnjC#IATAAGM #SustainableAviationFuel pic.twitter.com/81kr3vZvdH
IATA is convinced that if governments support global SAF production, it will be possible to reach 30 billion litres by 2030. The sector sees this as paramount for a long-term reduction of aviation emissions and to encourage investments to drive up production and drive down the price.
The technology is available and the challenge seems to be a lack of sufficient production. The United States, for example, is expected to reach 11 billion litres in 2030, supported by heavy government incentives. The international airline association criticised Europe citing lack of ambition and the bloc’s intention of decentralising production.
Under its Fit for 55 initiative, the EU is planning to mandate that airlines uplift 5% SAF at every European airport by 2030. Decentralising production will delay the development of economies of scale. And forcing the land transport of SAF will reduce the environmental benefit of using SAF.IATA
While the aviation sector is also betting on hydrogen to green its operations and achieve its climate targets, the industry admits that both hydrogen and electrically powered aircraft are likely to be limited to short-haul routes whereas “SAF is the proven solution for long-haul flying”.
“Hydrogen and/or electric propulsion systems will most likely be available for short haul commercial flights by 2035. We know it [SAF] works, and we need to double down our efforts to get all actors of the industry on board, including governments, to increase production, availability, and uptake” said Sebastian Mikosz, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Environment and Sustainability.
In October 2021, IATA member airlines came together and took the historic decision to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. This commitment brings the industry in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal.