When it comes to air travel, choosing environmentally friendly options may come with a higher price tag. Additionally, it will take some time for sustainable practices to become widely adopted.
Sustainability was a major focus at the Paris Air Show, the largest event in the aviation industry, where there is growing pressure to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions produced by aircraft.
Even the significant number of orders placed at the show had an emphasis on emissions reduction: Airlines and manufacturers stated that the new planes would be more fuel-efficient compared to their predecessors.
However, the majority of these aircraft will continue to rely on conventional, kerosene-based jet fuel. Despite the efforts of startups to develop electric-powered aircraft, their widespread adoption will not happen as swiftly as it has with electric vehicles.
Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at Columbia University, explains, “It is much easier to incorporate a heavy battery into a vehicle when you don’t have to lift it off the ground.”
As a result, sustainable aviation fuel presents itself as the industry’s best chance to fulfill its pledge of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Aviation currently accounts for 2% to 3% of global carbon emissions, but this figure is expected to rise as travel increases and other industries adopt more environmentally friendly practices.
At the Paris Air Show, airlines faced mounting pressure to address their contributions to climate change. The event, which is the largest in the aviation industry, highlighted the urgent need for sustainable aviation fuel as a solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
While sustainability was a significant topic of discussion, it became evident that the transition to greener practices would be a gradual process. Airlines and manufacturers showcased new planes that would be more fuel-efficient, aiming to replace older, less sustainable models.
However, the majority of these newly introduced planes will still rely on conventional jet fuel. Although startups are tirelessly working on electric-powered aircraft, the adoption rate will not match that of electric vehicles due to the significant challenges with implementing heavy batteries in aircraft.
Therefore, sustainable aviation fuel is currently recognized as the most viable solution to achieve the industry’s goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Aviation currently accounts for 2% to 3% of global carbon emissions, and with increased travel and increasingly greener industries, this figure is projected to rise.
Unfortunately, sustainable fuel currently comprises only 0.1% of total jet fuel. It is derived from sources such as used cooking oil and plant waste and can be blended with traditional jet fuel. However, the cost of sustainable aviation fuel is considerably higher than conventional fuel.
Suppliers have the power to dictate the price of sustainable fuel, giving rise to concerns that the cost will ultimately be passed down to passengers in the form of increased ticket prices. With such limited supply, critics argue that airlines are making overly ambitious promises and overestimating their ability to scale up the usage of sustainable fuel. Even within the industry, skepticism exists, with almost one-third of aviation sustainability officers surveyed in a GE Aerospace study expressing doubt that the net zero emissions goal will be achieved by 2050.
In the pursuit of sustainability, flying green comes at a price, and progress is slow.
The Paris Air Show, the largest aviation event in the world, placed a strong focus on sustainability this week. The industry faces mounting pressure to cut down on the greenhouse gas emissions generated by aircraft. Even the massive orders placed at the show were presented with an emissions-reduction angle, with airlines and manufacturers claiming that the new planes would be more fuel-efficient than their predecessors.
However, most of these planes will still rely on conventional, kerosene-based jet fuel. While startups are diligently working on electric-powered aircraft, they are unlikely to become widespread as quickly as electric vehicles.
Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at Columbia University, explained, “It’s a lot easier to pack a heavy battery into a vehicle if you don’t have to lift it off the ground.”
This is why sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) has become the industry’s best hope for achieving its goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Currently, aviation accounts for 2% to 3% of global carbon emissions, a figure projected to increase as travel grows and other industries become more environmentally friendly.
However, SAF currently represents just 0.1% of all jet fuel. Made from sources such as used cooking oil and plant waste, SAF can be blended with traditional jet fuel but is considerably more expensive.
Molly Wilkinson, a vice president at American Airlines, expressed concerns at the air show, stating, “Suppliers are ‘going to be able to kind of set the price.’ And we fear that at that point, that price eventually is going to trickle down to the passenger in some form of a ticket price.”
Critics argue that airlines are making excessively optimistic promises and overstating how quickly they can increase the use of SAF due to its limited supply. Even within the industry, doubts exist, with nearly one-third of aviation sustainability officers surveyed by GE Aerospace expressing uncertainty about reaching the net zero emissions goal by 2050.
In the United States, Delta Air Lines is being sued in federal court by critics who claim that the airline falsely portrays itself as the world’s first carbon-neutral airline and relies on mostly bogus carbon offsets. Delta has dismissed the lawsuit as “without legal merit.”
Across the Atlantic, a consumer group known as BEUC lodged a complaint this week with the European Union’s executive arm, accusing 17 airlines of engaging in greenwashing. The group alleges that airlines are deceiving customers and violating rules on unfair commercial practices by encouraging them to pay extra to support the development of SAF and offset future carbon emissions caused by flying.
FILE – In this June 19, 2023 file photo, a man walks down the steps of the Boeing 777X airplane during the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, north of Paris, France. The aviation industry is facing mounting pressure to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable aviation fuel made from food waste or plant material is considered the best solution for reducing emissions in the next few decades. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly, File)
If you want to fly while minimizing your impact on the climate, be prepared to pay more and wait longer for the necessary changes to take effect.
Sustainability took center stage at the Paris Air Show this week, the largest event for the aviation industry. With increasing pressure to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions produced by aircraft, both airlines and manufacturers emphasized that the new planes they are introducing will be more fuel-efficient than the older models they replace.
However, most of these planes will still use conventional kerosene-based jet fuel. While startups are actively working on electric-powered aircraft, their adoption will be slower compared to electric vehicles.
Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at Columbia University, explains, “It’s a lot easier to pack a heavy battery into a vehicle if you don’t have to lift it off the ground.”
This is where sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) comes into play. It is currently the industry’s best hope for achieving the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. Aviation contributes to 2% to 3% of global carbon emissions, and this percentage is projected to increase as travel demand rises and other industries become greener.
However, sustainable fuel only makes up 0.1% of all jet fuel at present. Although it can be blended with conventional fuel, it comes at a much higher cost. Molly Wilkinson, a vice president at American Airlines, remarked at the air show that suppliers will likely have the power to determine the price, which may eventually trickle down to passengers in the form of higher ticket prices.
Given this limited supply, critics argue that airlines are making overly ambitious promises and exaggerating their ability to scale up the use of SAF quickly. Even within the industry, there are skeptics. According to a survey conducted by GE Aerospace, nearly one-third of aviation sustainability officers doubt that the industry will achieve its net zero goal by 2050.
There are also legal battles surrounding airlines’ claims about being carbon-neutral. Delta Air Lines is being sued in U.S. federal court for allegedly falsely presenting itself as the world’s first carbon-neutral airline. Critics argue that Delta’s claim relies heavily on questionable carbon offsets. Delta denies the allegations.
Similarly, the consumer group BEUC recently filed a complaint with the European Union accusing 17 airlines of greenwashing. The group claims that airlines are misleading consumers and violating regulations on unfair commercial practices by enticing customers to pay extra for financing SAF development and offsetting future carbon emissions from flying. For instance, Air France was found to charge up to 138 euros ($150) for the “green” option.
Although sustainable aviation fuels have the potential to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Dimitri Vergne, a senior policy officer at BEUC, points out that the main problem is their lack of availability. He states, “We know that before the end of the next decade — at least — they won’t be available in massive quantities” and won’t constitute the primary source of fuel for planes.
Producers claim that SAF can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to regular jet fuel over its complete lifecycle.
For years, airlines have been discussing the need to adopt more environmentally friendly practices. However, the rise of the “flight shaming” movement, which encourages people to seek out less-polluting modes of transportation or reduce their travel altogether, has shaken the industry.
The urgency of the issue was heightened this year when European Union negotiators agreed on new regulations that would require airlines to use more sustainable fuel. These regulations will come into effect in 2025 and will progressively become more stringent in the following years.
In contrast, the United States is focusing on providing incentives rather than imposing mandates. President Joe Biden signed a law last year that offers tax breaks to encourage the development of cleaner jet fuel. However, one of the credits included in the law is set to expire in just two years. American Airlines executive, Wilkinson, believes that this short timeframe does not provide sufficient motivation for sustainable fuel producers. He suggests extending the credit by 10 years or even longer.
The International Air Transport Association, a trade group representing airlines, estimates that Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) could contribute to 65% of the emissions reductions required for the industry to achieve its net-zero goal by 2050.
Looking for an eco-friendly flight? Well, be prepared to wait and pay more. This was the message at the recent Paris Air Show, where the aviation industry faced mounting pressure to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) emerged as the industry’s best hope for achieving its goal of net zero emissions by 2050. Currently, SAF only accounts for 0.1% of all jet fuel and is made from sources like food waste and plant material. While it can be blended with conventional jet fuel, it comes at a significantly higher cost.
With a limited supply of SAF, critics argue that airlines are making ambitious promises and exaggerating their ability to scale up its use. There are even skeptics within the industry itself, with a GE Aerospace survey revealing that nearly one-third of aviation sustainability officers doubt the industry will reach its net-zero goal by 2050.
In addition, airlines have faced legal challenges for misleading consumers with claims of carbon neutrality. Delta Air Lines, for example, is being sued for falsely marketing itself as the world’s first carbon-neutral airline. Meanwhile, a consumer group in Europe accused 17 airlines of greenwashing and violating rules on unfair commercial practices.
Despite the challenges, the aviation industry recognizes the importance of sustainable fuel. Producers claim that SAF can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to regular jet fuel. The International Air Transport Association estimates that SAF could contribute 65% of the emissions reductions needed to achieve the industry’s net-zero goal.
However, SAF is just a small piece of the puzzle. Electric-powered aircraft are still in early stages of development and face significant challenges due to the weight of batteries. Hydrogen-powered planes are also being explored, but they require advancements in technology and infrastructure.
Ultimately, achieving sustainable aviation requires collaboration and investment in alternative fuels and technologies. Although progress may be slow and costly, the industry acknowledges that action is necessary to address climate change.