Aviation can hit emissions targets, but new fuels need to take off first

A new report released by the International Council on Clean Transport (ICCT), a nonprofit research group, outlines possible avenues for the aviation industry to reduce emissions enough to fulfill its mandate. in keeping global warming 2°C below pre-industrial levels, the goal set forth by the Paris accord. Achieving that goal will require swift action in the aviation industry and substantial policy support for technologies such as alternative fuels that currently do not exist at an industrial scale.

Aviation is a notoriously difficult industry to decarbonise. Strict operational and safety requirements limit what technology can be used for. Equipment has a long lifespan, so an aircraft built today will still fly in 2050. That means technical progress needs to happen quickly to reduce emissions for decades. century in the future.

“If you want to decarbonize the airline industry, you have to start now,” Lynnette Draya principal investigator at University College London.

Keeping emissions low enough to stay below 2°C of warming would mean cutting the aviation industry’s annual emissions by 2050 to about half of current projected levels — a daunting task for with an industry that is expected to grow rapidly over the next few decades. For industry to hit that target, its emissions will need to peak and begin to decline by 2030, Brandon Graver, one of the report’s authors and a senior aeronautical researcher at ICCT. And to further limit warming to 1.75°C, emissions would have to start falling as early as 2025.

In the ICCT’s analysis, about 60% of emissions reductions are expected to come from low-carbon fuels.

But the new fuel has a long way to go to achieve such an impact. Alternative jet fuel supplies account for approximately 0.05% of total fuel supplies in 2020. Assessment Number 2018A year’s supply of non-fossil fuels would power global aviation for about 10 minutes.

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