Fossil Free Sweden takes aim at aviation

In 2015, the Swedish Ministry of the Environment and Energy launched a ‘Fossil Free Sweden’ -initiative. As part of the project, the Swedish Air Transport Association has taken on the task to develop a roadmap to achieve completely fossil free domestic flights by 2030. Going a step further, the roadmap will also include an ambitious target of securing all flights originating from Swedish airports to be fossil free by 2045.

According to Svante Axelsson, the national coordinator of Fossil Free Sweden, “The mission is to promote the ambition to be the first fossil free economy in the world. In the Swedish parliament we have an agreement to reach 85% emissions reduction by 2045. This is a shared vision between the political parties and we are trying to speed up the tempo now. I organize companies from the business side to come together with local communities and there are now 350 partners involved in the movement. We are also producing roadmaps with fossil free targets for different industry sectors that will help improve competitiveness. By being at the forefront of this change, companies will gain competitive advantage.”

Emissions are growing

Maria Wetterstrand, CEO of Miltton Purpose, is responsible for the Swedish Government’s investigation of biofuel use in aviation.

“If the aviation industry remains unchanged it will be a disaster for the climate. Without any action, aviation alone will cause higher emissions than is accepted from the society as a whole (Paris Agreement). Oil consumption is not decreasing because aviation and shipping industries continue to grow, as will the use of oil for chemicals. With road transport, we see that there is a shift towards the use of other means of transportation, including renewable fuels and electric vehicles,” Maria states.

According to Maria, the industry needs new technologies and novel solutions to nourish. “One solution would be to materialize the partial electrification of aircraft as a hybrid solution, which I believe is in the pipeline with hybrid aircraft. It is however, not easy to upgrade an existing airplane fleet. Partial electrification will be the key factor to help decrease the need for fuel in air travel. Improving fuel efficiency of aircraft is critical. Ideal situation would be to couple the use of renewable fuels with high level electrification.”

“In reality, ‘fossil free’ is the materialization of a vision that needs a large scale innovation and investment.” – Maria Wetterstrand

Challenges remain

In Sweden the challenge will be to secure sufficient feedstock that can supply all domestic flights, on an daily basis. Even though access to biomass is relatively good in the Nordic countries, it will require new technology, raw materials, as well as political will and ambition to truly implement change.

As politicians begin to take action to reduce emissions, regulation alone will not be sufficient to transform aviation. Just as advancements in technology are needed, so are incentives and taxation required as part of the overall efforts to move aviation towards sustainable alternative fuels.

Maria explains that, “curbing emissions through increased taxes is a viable option. Another would be to invest in rail, to curb domestic air travel. Even though it is challenging, we need everyone to work together. Politicians need to take bold steps and airlines need to demand the most efficient planes possible.”

“In order to reach the 2045 target, the business sector should also join this change. Companies need to decide their willingness to pay for renewable fuels when their employees are traveling. ‘No-fly’ policies should be promoted and the online technology to improve,” says Maria. “Political, social and technological changes are needed to truly decarbonize aviation. And not just in Sweden, but all over the world.”

Svante concludes, “Nine Swedish sectors have now produced roadmaps on how to become fossil free before 2045 and at the same time help them increase their competitiveness. Each sector has also identified obstacles together with proposed solutions to the parliament. The main policy challenge is to change the investment pattern. We need a new contract between businesses and the state. After all, this transition period and the improvements that need to be made are expensive, and we need to help industry sectors make this change through incentives and tariffs. So, the state will need to take some risks.”

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