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IATA lays out plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is holding its 77th Annual General Meeting in Boston, where a resolution was passed for the global air transport industry to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.Achieving net-zero emissions will be a challenge for the industry. To achieve this goal, the industry must find ways to reduce its emissions output while simultaneously accommodating the growing demand for flight around the world. IATA noted in a statement that nearly ten billion people will be expected to fly in 2050, requiring at least 1.8 gigatons of carbon to be reduced that year. The commitment for net-zero by 2050 will mean that more than 21.2 gigatons of carbon will need to be reduced over the next 29 years."The world's airlines have taken a momentous decision to ensure that flying is sustainable. The post-COVID-19 re-connect will be on a clear path towards net-zero," said Willie Walsh, IATA's Director General. "With the collective efforts of the entire value chain and supportive government policies, aviation will achieve net-zero emissions by 2050."Walsh continued on to say that this sustainability cannot be done on the backs of airlines alone. As an industry, it is important that all sectors work together to reduce emissions.The PlanThe strategy will be to reduce CO2 from as many in-sector solutions as possible, such as sustainable fuel, new aircraft technology, more efficient operations and infrastructure, and new zero-emissions energy sources such as electric and hydrogen power. Emissions that cannot be eliminated in these ways, will be eliminated through out-of-sector options such as carbon capture and storage.The passed resolution requires that all industry stakeholders commit to addressing the environmental impact of their policies, products, and activities with concrete actions and clear timelines, including:Fuel-producing companies bringing large-scale, cost-competitive sustainable aviation fuel to the market.Aircraft and engine manufacturers producing more efficiently airframe and propulsion technologies; andAirport operators providing the infrastructure to supply SAF, at cost, and in a cost-effective manner.With the scale of the industry in 2050 requiring the mitigation of approximately 1.8 gigatons of carbon, IATA's plan could abate 65% of this carbon through sustainable aviation fuel alone. New propulsion technology, like hydrogen, should take care of an additional 13%. Energy efficiency improvements will account for a further 3%, with the remainder being dealt with through carbon capture and storage (11%) and offsets (8%)."The actual split, and the trajectory to get there, will depend on what solutions are the most cost-effective at any particular time," said Walsh. "Whatever the ultimate path to net-zero will be, it is absolutely true that the only way to get there will be the value chain and governments playing their role."MilestonesWhile the milestones of the resolution will evolve over time based on the most cost-efficient technology of the time, IATA does provide a base case scenario:2025: SAF production is expected to reach 7.9 billion litres (2% of total fuel requirement).2030: SAF production reaches 23 billion liters (5.2% of total fuel requirement). The ICAO Aviation System Block upgrades and regional programs are implemented fully by ANSPs.2035: SAF production is 91 billion liters (17% of total fuel requirement). Electric and hydrogen aircraft for the regional market (50-100 seats, 30-90 min. flights) become available.2040: SAF production is 229 billion liters (39% of total fuel requirement). Hydrogen aircraft for the short-haul market (100-150 seats, 45-120 min. flights) become available.2045: SAF production is 346 billion liters (54% of total fuel requirement).2050: SAF production reaches 449 billion liters (65% of total fuel requirement).Walsh commented that with SAF fueling the majority of aviation's global emissions mitigation by 2050, big energy suppliers announcing their intent to produce extra liters of SAF is welcome. However, these companies need to follow through on their announcements and be held accountable for delivering SAF at cost-competitive prices."There will be those who say that we face impossible numbers and technical challenges. Aviation has a history of realizing what was thought to be impossible -- and doing so quickly," said Walsh. "Sustainability is the challenge of our generation. And today we are launching a transition that is challenging. But in 30 years it is also within reach of human ingenuity, provided governments and the whole industry work together and hold each other accountable for delivery."
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