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ICAO Stocktaking Seminar on aviation in-sector CO2 emissions reductions


ICAO Stocktaking Seminar on aviation in-sector CO2 emissions reductions

From September 8th to 11th, ICAO organized a Stocktaking Seminar on aviation in-sector CO2 emissions reductions. While the ongoing COVID-19 has forced all participants to connect via their computer screens instead of coming together in Montreal, the goals of the seminar remained unchanged, and the quality of the content was in no way hindered thanks to an impressive speaker list from all spheres of aviation.

One of the major topics of the seminar were Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs), and a range of issues on the topic of SAFs was covered, including the advantages and disadvantages of SAFs, and an overview of both current and in-development technologies.

The primary advantages of SAFs are the ability to lower the carbon emissions of the aviation industry (by up to 63%, with 100% replacement of conventional fuels with SAFs, as per an ICAO estimate) without the need to radically change the aircraft or the fuel supply chains we use today.

The biggest disadvantage of SAFs, at least for the time being, are their prices, as SAFs are currently not cost-competitive with conventional jet fuel. Several participants of the seminar have emphasized the need for public funding support for SAFs, in order to increase fuel outputs and thereby lower the production costs, which will ultimately lead to cheaper SAFs.

A few technologies are already in use today, and a handful of others anticipate entry into service in the coming years. 2025 was mentioned often as either the year for a major production capacity increase or entry into service of new technologies.

In terms of legislative support for introduction of SAFs into service, Norway is the absolute leader, as the first country to introduce a mandatory use of SAFs. Since January 1st 2020, all flights in Norway must be fueled with at least 0.5% SAF blend.

Second major topic of the seminar was an alternative approach to the aircraft design (including new propulsion types), which would bring about a very significant reduction in, or potentially even a complete elimination of CO2 emissions.

Hydrogen was identified as the likeliest new propulsion source that the decarbonization would rely on, with several stakeholders presenting projects in various stages of development. For commercial aviation, 2035 stands as the target year for entry into service of hydrogen-powered aircraft.

It was also noted that significant progress was made in the field of electric aircraft, with EASA certifying world’s first fully-electric aircraft, Pipistrel Velis Electro, in June 2020.

Finally, a number of already-in-progress initiatives have been presented, which focus on reducing CO2 emissions through improving operational efficiencies. The presentations included projects for reducing ATC routing-induced losses, potential for flying long-haul flights in small formations, as well as AI-supported programs for use in airline operations.

The seminar ended on a high note with the Oneworld alliance CEO, Rob Gurney, committing to all member airlines being carbon net zero by 2050.

Overall, the seminar has sent messages of hope and potential for development of environmentally friendly aviation, though it has also shown that we still have a long path ahead of us.

> Click here to watch webinar recording.
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