Key leaders from the aviation sector gathered during the Clean Aviation Forum event last week discussing general challenges to achieve net-neutrality. From increased cooperation between public and private entities to the development of efficient new technologies and fuels, the high-profile event took stock of the current landscape in the aviation sector and proposed new ideas and solutions.
1. Finding sustainable solutions
During the Clean Aviation Forum, which took place between 22 and 23 March, the message was clear: policymakers and industry have repeatedly underlined the urgency to take action, including global action, to drastically decrease GHG emissions, in line with the European Green Deal.
“Climate change is a reality we are all confronted with,” said Clean Aviation’s Executive Director Axel Krein, while opening the first Forum at The Hotel in Brussels. “But past challenges have shown us that we are stronger than we could have ever imagined.” Krein has insisted that to fulfill the 2050 targets, cooperation between the public and private sector is crucial in order to achieve results and develop more efficient technology.
“We want and need to continue to fly, but we have to do so while meeting our environmental obligations in line with the Paris Agreement,” said Willie Walsh, the Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), stressing that climate goals can no longer be ignored by the aviation sector.
For some, 2050 sounds far away but it’s just around the corner. I see decarbonisation as an opportunity to modernise aviation and introduce new technology – and keep the competitiveness of the sector in Europe.Adina Valean, European Commissioner for Transport
The European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean mentioned the need to make better use of combined modes of transport in order to accelerate decarbonisation towards a climate-neutral future. Passengers today are faced with the difficult and sometimes unavoidable choice of choosing more polluting but cheaper ways of transport: “There is no tax on kerosene, that’s the main reason why flying is less expensive than trains,” said Timothée Galvaire, a representative of the European Fuel Tax Initiative (EFTI) quoted by the European Environmental Bureau.
“The pace towards decarbonisation should be accelerated. Each sector must contribute to its fair share and this is a topic where the EU can and must take leadership,” said Clara de la Torre, the Commission’s DG Climate Action chief.
2. New technologies and sustainable fuels
During the event, it was widely agreed that new technologies are a must to deliver towards the climate targets. Industry leaders, including Airbus, Dassault Aviation, DLR and Leonardo, discussed different solutions including regional aircraft and rotorcraft technologies, hydrogen for short/medium-range aircraft, hybrid/electric regional aircraft and new ways of propulsion and hydrogen-powered aircraft.
Eric Dalbiès, Senior Executive Vice President of R&T and Innovation at Safran outlined the vision that the world’s second largest aircraft equipment manufacturer has for the green future of aviation. Safran noted that to reach climate neutrality by 2050, technology alone won’t be enough and urged the industry to invest on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) too.
We need an impact-driven approach, with continuous research effort required. Clean Aviation is a major enabler to help reach this objective.Eric Dalbiès, Senior Executive Vice President of R&T and Innovation at Safran
Jean-Eric Paquet, Director-General for Research and Innovation at the Commission, reflected on the achievements of the past two Clean Sky programmes, while highlighting the need for the rapid development of even more game-changing technologies.
“Clean Sky was an amazing engineering prowess, even a miracle. But the growth in the aviation sector was remarkable and outpaced the gains made,” said Paquet. “Disruption is the key to meeting our goals. We need to focus our investments to propulse research in the direction of climate neutrality.”
On the last day of the event, Axel Krein announced the launch of Clean Aviation’s First Call for Proposals, which seek to gather possible solutions to help pushing the aviation sector to become more sustainable. Worth €735 million, Clean Aviation’s first Call for Proposals is searching for impactful solutions that can deliver sustainable aircraft by 2050. “This is an impact-focused programme, we have a clear deadline,” he told the audience.
📢 NEWS: #CleanAviation’s 1st #CallforProposals is open! @HorizonEU— Clean Aviation (@clean_aviation) March 23, 2022
💶 Budget = €735 million
🗓 Apply by 23 June 2022 (17:00 Brussels time)
We can’t wait to see your innovative ideas to help us on our pathway to #ClimateNeutral aviation!
All info ➡️ https://t.co/RdOLBOTkSS pic.twitter.com/r3YuOTugvw
On top of pledges of greater cooperation and enhanced tech and fuels, the campaign group Transport & Environment said Europe needs to actually act to improve the pricing of emissions and end aviation’s tax exemptions, in order to make the industry pay the true cost of its climate impact.
The campaign group also asked the EU executive to implement policies to rectify the unfair advantages aviation receives, include fossil jet fuel taxation, ticket taxes and including all aviation emissions in the EU’s carbon market.