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Joint Aviation Sustainability event

On 15 October, a Joint Aviation Sustainability Event took place in Brussels. The event was organised by IATA and ATAG along with the Finnish Presidency. It focussed on how aviation can best prepare for its future environmental challenges and opportunities and brought together airlines, legislators and other industry stakeholders. The event was organised in three panels addressing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), market based mechanisms and technology and operations.

A key point of the meeting was “collaboration”. Speakers addressed the question on how to tackle the challenges that climate change poses on aviation. It is key that the stakeholders work together in order to achieve the industry’s environmental targets.

Mikael Nyberg, High Representative for Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, in his welcome remark, acknowledged that aviation is part of the modern transport system – it enables connectivity and economic growth and the main goal of the Finnish Presidency is to achieve carbon-free transport. Aviation particularly is facing a growing challenge to address climate change and it is important for the sector to start stabilising its emissions. As aviation is a global industry, global solutions are necessary to ensure the competitiveness. The next step is setting up aviation’s long term goal. Additionally, a traffic management, which currently represents many inefficiencies, needs to be improved. He concluded stating that challenges can be turned into opportunities, but collaboration is key.

Beatriz Yordi, Director of the European and International Carbon Markets, welcomed the joint event and hopes for more “joint” initiatives to take place. The new College of the European Commission, new mandates and a clear priority on climate change require a clear political agenda. The mission is to make the European Union the first world climate neutral continent and change is necessary. She called on the industry to make use of the funding that the EU offers such as Horizon Europe and the Innovation Fund, which offers €10bn starting from next year. In addition, biofuel is key for the decarbonisation of the sector.

Rafael Schvartzman, Regional Vice President IATA, stated the necessity for the industry to make sustainability a priority. The only way to meet the global demand is by making sustainability a reality. While CORSIA is key for stabilising international aviation’s emissions, also creating an efficient air traffic management system is vital to address the severe bottlenecks. On the shorter term, sustainable aviation fuels have the most potential. He also stated that taxation is not the right measure to take as the tax is not redirected towards the sector itself.

Panel I: How to make enough sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) available to airlines at a competitive price?

Filip Cornelis, Director of the Aviation Directorate in DG MOVE, stated that as a “quick win”, SAF represents the most important pathway to decarbonise. In fact, there are already a number of SAF that have been certified. They are not all born equal and each have a different carbon performance. But in the EU there are regulations (RED II) that allow to have the highest standards of SAF. He then addressed two challenges: the availability of supply - the feedstock is not enough and the supply is diverted to other modes of transport; and costs - currently, SAF costs between 2-7 times more than conventional jet fuel. By 2050 SAF should costs will be only 1.5-2 times higher than conventional jet fuel. He acknowledged that there is interest from the industry and that some member states’ blending targets could provide the necessary certainty that producers need in order to amp the production of SAF.

Peter Vanacker, President and CEO of NESTE, stated that they expect to produce 10 million litres of SAF per year from 2022 on at a global basis. They are not the only ones working on this, there are many more. It is an important investment to fight climate change and there are already many companies making this a priority. This could also be advantageous for aviation, where both the commercial and political collaboration is a necessity. He concluded stating that there are already solutions available and that there actually is SAF supply available. The 100 tonnes of fuels that they produce are redirected towards the road transport as there is no demand from the aviation sector.

Fokko Kroesen, Corporate environmental manager at KLM, explained how KLM has already started flying on SAF 10 years ago. The main challenge they are facing is getting sufficient supply. KLM has a green deal with the Dutch government. They have been sourcing SAF from Los Angeles, USA until now, however, substantial steps are needed in Europe – SAF supply and technology really need to be developed. He concluded that it is still too early to think of a blending mandate given the lack of feedstock available.

Kim Stollar, Boeing, stated that they flew their first flight on SAF back in 2008 and since then technology has not accelerated. Probably it will be available for short haul flights by 2020-2030, but for larger aircraft it will take longer. She encouraged the EU to look at what is being achieved locally and what SAF is available and consider tax credits that creates stability.

Robert Boyd, IATA, considered aviation a great story to tell given the efficiency improvements that it has achieved so far and emphasised how aviation is not the issue, but CO2 is. SAF is still a young industry, and currently five pathways are fit for purpose. According to an ICAO study, the technology and feedstock are available, we just need to reach the tipping point to achieve economies of scales. He continued stating that all of the stakeholders need to get involved: airlines need to “get their toes wet”, governments need specific aviation policies, the EU needs to have a macro vision.

Panel II: Market Based Measures: CORSIA developments after the ICAO Assembly – What is next for the EU ETS?

MEP Boguslaw Liberadzki, TRAN Committee at the EP, acknowledged that people want to move and have access to all modes of transport, ability to pay and have ensured safety and security measures. The current model is an inefficient one and the European Parliament is very much in favour in protecting the environment and the public’s will. CORSIA raises concerns at the EU by undermining the EU possibility to legislate on the issue. However, he did underline the importance of European aviation.

Beatriz Yordi, DG CLIMA, stated that the EU’s pioneering role has been confirmed at ICAO’s A40 together with the role as a global partner. In 2021 a report on CORSIA and EU ETS will be published describing the relationship between the two market based measures.

Mikael Nyberg, High representative for Finland’s Presidency, addressed the policy debate around SES this year and that the commitment from the Member States is still necessary. Regarding the A40, the EU did well and now it is up to the CAEP and the TAB to make recommendations on the credits to be used under CORSIA. As for the long term goal, he mentioned that more ambition will be needed towards 2050 and hopefully have a more ambitious system than CORSIA by then. He was also content about the level of collaboration and industry representative at the A40, underlying again the importance of collaboration in the industry.

Sami Lahdensuo, Senior Advisor at Finnair, emphasised how the industry is well aware of the challenges climate change poses to aviation and that they are taking it seriously. In fact the industry is participating in CORSIA and EU ETS. Climate change is also a business issues, and as such, if the airlines do not tackle it then they have no business. Airlines call for predictability and certainty. Together we can find solutions.

Panel III: Other ways for aviation to meet its environmental challenges.

Andrew Murphy, Manager at T&E, underlined that there are people willing to stop flying. According to him, ICAO is not the venue to decarbonise the sector. He gave an example of fuel voluntary agreements that, while they have allowed to take the first steps, they are not enough, it is time to go beyond and have a new look at regulation. Aviation is not the only sector facing the challenge to get to zero, others are as well. In the road sector, the industry has both mandates and taxes, it is time for aviation to take action.

Ron van Manen, Clean Sky 2, also emphasised the importance of collaboration in addressing the climate crisis and a private-public partnership is key. There is an increasing sense of urgency and technology and operations cannot be seen in isolation. The sector finds itself in a system that will reach 10 times its size according to latest forecasts. There is a possibility to fly 5 per cent slower, which adds only 30 minutes to the flight and reach 20% gain without putting new technology on board. Focusing on only fuel or only on technology will not be enough and both are necessary and need to be accelerated.

Montserrat Barriga, DG at ERA, gave examples of how collaboration is put in practice by her members. She explained how the joint project between the airline Braathens, ATR, Air BP and Neste helped achieve The Perfect Flight. She also mentioned the partnership between the Norwegian airline Wideroe and Rolls-Royce on zero-emissions aviation. Short haul flying is the forerunner to contribute to the testing and selecting of the promising technology. Regional airlines need to take advantage of this.

Glenn Llewllyn, Airbus, stated that all aircraft are currently certified to allow up to 50 per cent of biofuel. However, there needs to be a paradigm change and reconsider the type of aircraft we need and inevitably make compromises. He then explained the different projects they are currently working on and the importance of understanding the airlines’ perspective. Change can happen, but the sector needs to work together.