IATA is urging governments to promote sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as a critical tool to enabling the industry to halve its CO2 emissions against 2005 levels by 2050.
Calling SAF a “game changer”, IATA’s Sebastian Mikosz, senior vice president for member and external relations, tells the third day of the association’s global media event that SAF products are already available and do not require any additional modifications to aircraft or infrastructure.
Around 40 airlines already have experience of using SAF, with flights having taken place using only SAF. However, “this game changer needs policy support because the cost of SAF is really not competitive now”, he notes.
SAF currently cost around two-to-four times as much as conventional aviation fuel.
IATA believes the coronavirus crisis is an opportunity for governments to support SAF production, with additional investment required in the refinery sector.
Governments could promote SAF through direct investment from stimulus packages, loan guarantees and incentives for the private sector, as well as regulations that channel feedstock towards aviation, as opposed to other lower-carbon transport industries.
“Our ambition is to use the crisis to promote SAF and regulatory support of lowering the cost of SAF”, says Mikosz.
The association envisages SAF’s usage rising from around 0.01% of global aviation fuel currently to 2% in the middle of the decade. By 2050, it hopes SAF could represent 50-85% of aviation fuel consumption, via a “gradual ramp-up” in its adoption.
Although it reduces CO2 emissions by 80%, IATA views SAF as a stopgap, in combination with carbon offsetting tools, allowing the industry to improve their environmental performance until zero-carbon aircraft are available.
The real “jump” in decarbonisation will come from zero-carbon aircraft, a prospect that remains years away.
“We do not have any [technology] to have a zero-emissions plane today,” explains Mikosz. “The way to proceed is to invest in all the ways to reduce emissions.”
Given this, IATA is also acting to bolster the adoption of carbon offsetting.
To this end it has launched its Aviation Carbon Exchange (ACE), whereby airlines can purchase carbon credits through investing in emission-reduction projects.
The electronic trading platform is open to all airlines and aircraft, and saw its first transaction with US carrier JetBlue purchasing credits from a windfarm in the Dominican Republic.
“Airlines are serious in their commitment to reduce emissions. And they need a reliable tool to access quality carbon credits in real time. ACE will be a key tool helping airlines efficiently manage these important transactions,” comments Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general.
IATA is targeting a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions against 2005 levels by 2050, a pledge that was reaffirmed at its AGM on 24 November.