Airlines have little chance of meeting the environmental target of zero CO2 emissions. Analysts from research and credit rating agency Scope Ratings write this report on the sector. The biggest challenge for airlines is finding a replacement jet fuel for kerosene, which is responsible for the sector’s large carbon footprint.
There is not yet a sufficient quantity or quality replacement fuel to keep the current fleet of commercial aircraft afloat. And without an unexpected technological breakthrough, it will likely be years, if not decades, before a replacement for kerosene becomes available.
The aviation sector is currently responsible for 2.4 percent of global CO2 emissions. In line with EU policy, many airlines aim to achieve zero CO2 emissions by 2050 and have intermediate targets that aim to reduce emissions significantly. However, airlines heavily depend on energy companies, aircraft manufacturers, and engine manufacturers to provide the necessary technology to reduce emissions.
Airlines are investing heavily in alternative sustainable aviation fuels to meet their obligations. However, this impact on the sector’s emissions will be marginal in the short to medium term, according to Scope. So far, investments have been made to expand the annual production of sustainable jet fuel to just 5 billion by 2025 from the current 125 million litres. With effective government incentives, production could reach 30 billion litres by 2030. However, according to Scope, annual production of 449 billion litres is needed to meet the demand.
Alternative sustainable aviation fuel has the advantage that it is suitable for existing aircraft engines. But it is expensive and costs more than twice as much as regular jet fuel. Moreover, new technologies such as hydrogen-powered and electric aircraft are unlikely to be available before 2040 and may only be used for short-haul flights.
However, about 80 percent of aviation CO2 emissions are emitted by flights of more than 1500 kilometres, for which there are no practical alternative means of transport without significantly longer travel times.