UK prime minister Boris Johnson believes the air transport industry needs to be more ambitious in its targets for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) usage.
Addressing the UN climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow on 2 November, Johnson cited the global target for SAF to make up 10% of aviation fuel usage by 2030 – which was adopted by 60 companies in the World Economic Forum’s Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition in September – saying everyone should be “far, far more ambitious” when it comes to de-carbonising the sector.
“How pathetic is that?” he asks of the 10% aim, adding: “We can do better than that, folks.”
Johnson also acknowledges, however, that aviation is “a tough nut to crack” when it comes to shifting away from fossil fuels. He recalls the first non-stop transatlantic flight by John Alcock and Arthur Brown in 1919, claiming the sector has ”made virtually no progress technologically” since then.
That is why, Johnson explains, aviation is a key focus in a newly announced global plan to speed up the adoption of ‘clean’ technologies.
As part of a long list of initiatives unveiled on 2 November, the ’Breakthrough Energy Catalyst’ programme aims to raise “$3 billion in concessional capital to catalyse up to $30 billion of investments in bringing down clean technology costs and creating markets for green products for green hydrogen, direct air capture, long-duration energy storage and sustainable aviation fuel”, the UK government says.
The UK has pledged £200 million ($272 million), alongside a similar amount from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, specifically aimed at speeding the adoption of SAF.
Pointing to Gates in the COP26 audience, Johnson says: “Bill and I agreed jointly to spend £400 million to solve the problem of guilt-free aviation.”
Airline association IATA recently set out a potential roadmap for commercial air transport achieving net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. That timeline was even less ambitious than the Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition’s, with SAF use only reaching 5.2% by 2030.