What can be done to contribute to sustainable aviation?

Aviation is a key driver for the global economy, connecting people and businesses across the globe. It provides channels for trade and enables the fast-paced movement of new technologies and business opportunities.

The industry’s global economic impact is currently estimated to be $2.7 trillion, equivalent to 3.6% of global gross domestic product (GDP). Industry forecasts suggest that the global aviation industry could see an increase in passengers to over 7.7 billion by 2036 and contribute to an economic impact of $5.7 trillion. Currently, the industry directly provides jobs to over 10 million people and indirectly to almost 66 million.


Stop emissions, not travel

In 2017, global aviation served over 45,000 routes globally, conducting over 41.9 million scheduled commercial flights and carrying over 4.1 billion passengers worldwide. These numbers are no surprise, because air travel remains the most efficient mode of long-distance transport compared with road and rail. For some routes, flying is considered the only practical alternative. These benefits, however, come with environmental costs that must be considered.

The aviation industry accounts for approximately 2-3% of global manmade greenhouse gas emissions, producing 859 million tonnes of C02 in 2017. Moreover, as air traffic is forecast to double in the next 15 years, the rate of emissions is only set to increase. For the industry to grow sustainably, measures need to be taken to reduce aviation-related emissions and ensure the carbon-neutral growth of the industry.

Bold goals to reduce aviation-related emissions

In 2008, the global aviation industry established a climate action framework setting global goals for the industry to mitigate CO2 emissions from air transport. The industry aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions from air transportation by improving average annual fuel efficiency by 1.5% from 2009 to 2020, achieving carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards, as well as halving net aviation carbon emissions by 2050. Thus the aviation industry is taking action to limit its environmental impact.

How can these emissions be reduced?

Companies in the aviation industry are collaborating and introducing measures to reduce emissions. The measures include adopting new technology, efficient operations, improved infrastructure use of sustainable fuel and market-based measures. Fuel makes up the main operating cost for airlines, which explains why fuel-saving measures are receiving interest from airlines. New technology in the form of a new type of aircraft makes a great contribution to efficiency: each new generation of aircraft is 15-20% more efficient compared with the previous generation. In addition, in-service aircraft are subject to continuous performance improvement.

By efficient operations, is meant the measures an aircraft runs once in service to ensure all flights maximize fuel efficiency. These include cutting unnecessary non-flight critical weight, introducing wingtip technology, modifying climbing and descending operations, and optimizing flights to avoid unnecessary time in the air. Improved infrastructure relates to improved navigational systems and procedures, ensuring that aircraft are guided through the air as efficiently as possible. The target is that aircraft can follow optimized direct routes with greater accuracy and efficiency. Cutting out unnecessary travel time can save fuel and decrease CO2 emissions.

Market-based measures are created to complement fuel-saving efficiency measures. Aviation has adopted the world’s first global carbon mechanism for the industrial sector, the ICAO Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), a scheme introducing carbon offsetting to aviation.

The aviation industry’s long-term goal of cutting overall emissions by 2050 to half of what they were in 2005 is supported by operational and infrastructural changes that can yield significant gains. However, the most remarkable emission savings will be achieved through new aircraft technology and sustainable aviation fuels. Sustainable aviation fuels can be up to 80% less carbon-intensive over their lifecycle, and commercialization is already underway.

Neste’s role in sustainable aviation

Sustainable aviation fuel offers considerable potential to secure the sustainability of air travel. Rather than being produced from fossil feedstock, the fuels are synthesized from renewable and sustainable feedstocks. They are chemically identical to conventional jet fuel and meet rigid jet fuel specifications.

Neste has a long history in the development of high-quality renewable fuels. Indeed, it is the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel. For over ten years, we have been helping our customers in the transportation sector to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions. We are now offering our expertise in decarbonizing traffic to the aviation industry, and have developed Neste MY Renewable Jet Fuel™. This high-performing sustainable aviation fuel has been tested in over 1,000 commercial flights and offers a convenient way to decrease emissions and increase the proportion of renewable energy used in aviation.

We are determined to serve aviation in its target of emission reduction, and are investing in new capacity. With our Singapore expansion, we can produce up to 1 million tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel. Read more about our high-quality, low-carbon fuel here.

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