(Editor’s note: This article has been updated as of September 1, 2021)
Despite the huge impact the pandemic has brought onto the aviation industry, manufacturers are not about to drop the ball on efforts to make the sector become carbon-neutral. In the American plane builder Boeing’s announcement of its 2020 Global Environment report, among the major highlights is showing how the company hopes to sustainably design and build products while conserving resources and reducing waste across its global operations.
Boeing has set an ambitious 2025 environmental goal, which includes significant reductions in emissions, waste, and water and energy consumption. “Our ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability is important to our overall strategy,” said Greg Smith, Boeing executive vice president of enterprise operations, chief financial officer and interim leader of communications. “Innovation is part of Boeing’s DNA and we apply this inventiveness to help solve the fundamental global challenge of climate change.”
Back in 2019, Boeing shared these environmental highlights:
Developing new products that are 15 to 25% more efficient in support of the aerospace industry’s goal to achieve global carbon-neutral growth in 2020 and drive a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050;
Offering airline customers the option to fly their new airplanes home on sustainable fuel;
Securing more renewable energy to power operations by joining the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, a community of large energy buyers accelerating a zero-carbon energy future;
Reducing solid waste sent to landfills by 15% and water consumption by 7% since 2017, significantly advancing its goal to drive a 20% reduction in both metrics by 2025;
Launching the 777 ecoDemonstrator flying testbeds to assess sustainable technologies, including new wing fin technology that improves efficiency during takeoff and landing and saving airlines millions of gallons of fuel each year;
Collaborating with external partners and local non-profits to support environmental sustainability through educational outreach, community involvement, land conservation, and habitat restoration;
Receiving an Energy Star Partner of the Year Award for Sustained Excellence for the 10th consecutive year.
Boeing is currently working to achieve its environmental goals by 2025, which includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, water use and solid waste to landfill by 20%, energy use by 10%, and hazardous waste by 5% at worksites.
IATA Urges Sustainable Aviation Fuels Use Post-CoViD-19
Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is urging the International Energy Agency (IEA) to prioritize investment in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Current sustainable fuel production rates are too low for aviation to reach its goals. Further, the move is to help strengthen the aviation’s contribution to post-CoViD-19 recovery.
According to IATA, the IEA is well-placed to promote SAF production with its stakeholders both in government and the fuel industry. Moreover, the association sees that the world must “build back better” from the CoViD-19 crisis, focusing on investment in carbon reduction technologies. Also, SAF will create jobs at this critical time and boost aviation’s progress towards reducing aviation emissions to half 2005 levels by 2050. IATA shared that the current SAF production rates are too low for aviation to reach this goal despite the sustainable fuel’s proven potential and airline efforts.
Compared to conventional jet fuel, SAF can cut CO2 lifecycle emissions up to 80%. It also utilizes sustainable fuel sources that do not compete with food or water or damage biodiversity. Due to extensive testing and investment from airlines, SAF is certified as safe, sustainable, and ready-to-use.
According to aviationbenefits.org, to date, there have been a total of 359,912 commercial flights using SAF since 2011. And looking at the next few years, there have been 6 billion liters of SAF in current forward purchase agreements by airlines. Yet, this still covers only about 2% of the total amount of fuel demand by 2025 (https://aviationbenefits.org/environmental-efficiency/climate-action/sustainable-aviation-fuel).
“The enormous amounts of money that governments are investing in the economic recovery from CoViD-19 are an opportunity to create a legacy of energy transition for the aviation industry,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO. “To achieve this, governments, the finance community and the fuel producers—both large and small—must work together with the goal of rapidly increasing production of affordable sustainable aviation fuel.”
Based on IATA’s estimates, the current SAF production is about 50 million liters annually. To reach a tipping point where the scale of production will see SAF costs drop to levels competitive with jet fuel, production needs to reach 7 billion liters, or 2% of 2019 consumption. “As much as airlines want to use SAF, production is well below the scale needed for prices to fall to competitive levels,” de Juniac said. “Attaining the right price point is even more crucial as industry losses and debt levels rise. But if governments can use this unique time to combine a safe fiscal and regulatory framework supporting SAF production with the direct allocation of stimulus funds to SAF production, it is possible to reach the 2% tipping point in 2025. That would power greener flights, create jobs and fuel the economic recovery together.” (Asian Aviation; AviationNews-online)
Watch IATAtv’s short summary of what SAF is all about, how it’s made, and how it can impact the environment and the air transport industry here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GW5ZwsNh-Lo