Pricing our planet and plane tickets

Matti Lievonen, President & CEO, Neste

By Matti Lievonen, President & CEO, Neste

They say that at any given moment, more than one million people are in the air. That means one of your personal Facebook friends is piercing the clouds right now, defying gravity in one of the most spectacular inventions of human history. However, more and more of them are now questioning the justification of their own personal air travel. Does the purpose of the trip outweigh the emissions it causes? Does it fit my personal carbon budget?

When I speak with customers and stakeholders, the message is the same all over the world: we must lower emissions and find alternatives to fossil fuels. Aviation is no exception, as decarbonization is a common objective for many sectors.

There is no denying the immense importance of aviation to global economics and the advancement of societies, however our responsibility for choosing to travel by air is growing as well. Aviation already causes a significant share of the world’s CO2 emissions, and these emissions are growing. Meanwhile the world’s carbon budget is being depleted at an alarming rate.

Waiting for the electrification of planes would almost equal to admitting defeat in the face of climate change. They will not provide the solutions we need in the time we have available. We should keep working on every possible alternative solution, but we also need to make responsible choices today. These are not the kinds of decisions that we should sleep on, as they say.

Transition to Sustainable Alternative Fuel

Scaling up the production and use of sustainable alternative fuel is an imperative the aviation industry cannot ignore. Neste MY Renewable Jet Fuel is now readily available and has been used extensively, and this year production will achieve commercial volume. In 2019, Neste plans to produce more renewable jet fuel than all other providers combined, and by 2022, we will have upscaled our capacity by a further 640 million gallons.

Made from sustainable renewable raw materials such as waste and residues, renewable jet fuel is compatible with existing aircrafts and blendable with fossil kerosene. It provides significant and immediate emission reductions. We are currently working together with the industry to drive acceptance for even lower quality waste and residue raw materials, as this would open the market to a greater number of producers. The truth is that the market and demand for sustainable alternative fuel will be greater than any one company can manage alone. We need to collaborate and open the doors for competition.

Will renewable jet fuel alone achieve sustainable air travel? Absolutely not. Aircraft technology and infrastructure will play a key role. If the goal is to achieve carbon neutral growth in aviation, even optimistic assessments allocate just half of the emission reductions required to be achieved by switching to sustainable alternative fuels.

Will they be easy to implement from an airline’s perspective? Unfortunately, the answer here too is no. At the crossroads of consumer behaviour, public sentiment, fierce competition, legislative interests and economic realities, it is the entire aviation ecosystem’s responsibility to co-operate to develop and implement decarbonizing solutions in a viable way. Airports play a vital role in introducing solutions and encouraging their suppliers to go fossil free, airlines have yet to truly discover sustainability as a marketing asset, and governments need to make sure legislation supports investment and adoption of these solutions.

Companies like Neste need to collaborate and reinvent their businesses too. Could sustainability be offered as a service? All we know is that a traditional fuel supply approach will not close the price gap. Everyone in the industry knows how complex these processes can be, but we already have significant experience in how to make it happen in road transport, and are more than willing to share this expertise with others. Those who are taking the lead now have a true opportunity to stand out as frontrunners.

Personally, I would like to thank all those companies who have taken a decision to put sustainability at the forefront of growth in the aviation industry. We invite everyone to join the conversation and help co-create a more sustainable future for aviation. Let’s win this battle together.

Matti Lievonen
President and CEO, Neste

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