Home Greenhouse Sustainable development in aviation: major efforts underway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions | Jones Day

Sustainable development in aviation: major efforts underway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions | Jones Day


The aviation industry, including airlines and aircraft manufacturers, has taken important steps to increase the environmental sustainability of the industry. Overall, many airlines have demonstrated their commitment to sustainability by committing to achieve carbon neutrality. In October 2021, members of the International Air Transport Association approved a resolution “For the global airline industry to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050”. This article highlights three specific ways in which the aviation industry, as a whole, strives to achieve carbon neutrality and increase its sustainability: (i) the carbon offset and reduction program for the international aviation (“CORSIA”); (ii) investing in sustainable aviation fuel (“SAF”) technology; and (iii) the development of electric aircraft.

CORSICA. In 2016, member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”), the United Nations governing body for international aviation, established the framework for CORSICA, a global market-based measure designed to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft. In 2018, ICAO adopted the means to implement the program under which participants will monitor emissions from international flights and acquire carbon offsets for those exceeding a 2019-2020 average emissions benchmark. The program, which is voluntary until 2027, is expected to mitigate around 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2021 and 2035.

Sustainable fuels. Traditionally, commercial airplanes have used “Jet-A” fuel to power their engines, which is a highly refined kerosene type fuel. In the interest of reducing carbon emissions, the aviation industry has demonstrated its commitment to developing SAF. SAF is “Fuel blend components derived from renewable or waste-based raw materials which, compared to petroleum-based fuels, reduce carbon dioxide emissions. “

US airlines have announced commitments for the development of SAFs and investments in companies developing SAFs. For example, Airlines for America member companies, which include the major US airlines, have committed to “3 billion gallons of SAF available to US aircraft operators in 2030.” They intend to work with government and stakeholders to achieve this goal.

The federal government has demonstrated its commitment by establishing a multi-agency effort to expand the production and use of SAF. This “Grand Défi SAF,” a collaboration between the Ministries of Energy, Transport and Agriculture, aims to achieve a minimum of 50% reduction in life cycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fuel, and to achieve a target of supply enough SAF to meet 100% of aviation fuel demand by 2050. The Agencies are committed to investing in sustainable technologies, conducting research and development activities, developing a strategy for decarbonization, working with standards organizations and investing in workforce development, among others.

Advances in electric aircraft technology. Although all-electric commercial airplanes are not realistic with today’s technology, aircraft and engine manufacturers are striving to develop electric airplanes for other uses, particularly advanced air mobility (” AAM ”). AAM is a “airborne technology to transport people and goods in new, community-friendly and cost-effective aircraft“, which will be able to provide local and regional air transport. Electrically powered aircraft are at the center of this movement as these aircraft are expected to fly from locations close to and within population centers and are therefore desirable in terms of noise, emissions and durability Large aircraft manufacturers and small specialist companies are developing these aircraft and seeking to certify them with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (“EASA” ) and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), which is necessary to carry passengers during There is precedent for the certification of electric airplanes. In June 2020, EASA certified the Pipistrel Velis Electro , a two-seater light sports aircraft.

Other carbon reduction strategies. The aviation industry is also using other means to reduce its carbon footprint. Airports have switched to renewables and increased use of zero or low emission vehicles. To help with these efforts, the FAA provides grants at airports for sustainability planning, including greenhouse gas inventories, emission reduction initiatives and air quality projects.

The FAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration also recently announced software improvements which calculates door push-backs to reduce the taxiing time between push-back and take-off. This software will have the benefit of reducing aircraft emissions due to shorter taxi times, thereby saving fuel for airlines and increasing on-time departures.

Summary. The aviation industry, including airlines, aircraft manufacturers and companies engaged in emerging technologies, has demonstrated its commitment to reducing emissions throughout the aviation system. Achieving these goals will take time as modifications to aircraft and their fuel must be proven to be safe before they can be implemented. Nevertheless, the actions described in this article are concrete steps towards a sustainable aviation industry.