Sixty companies in the World Economic Forum’s Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition have signed a commitment to accelerate the supply and use of sustainable aviation fuel to reach 10% of global jet aviation fuel supply by 2030. Signatories represent a global group of airlines, airports and fuel suppliers, as well as non-aviation companies that rely on corporate air travel for their business operations and which recognise decarbonising aviation lies with all that depend on it. With the current commercial production of SAF at less than 0.1%, significant scale-up must take place to meet this target, writes Susan van Dyk. The problem is the high cost of SAF, and producers and carriers alone are unable to carry the burden, said Lauren Uppink Calderwood, Head of Aviation, Travel and Tourism Industries at WEF. The commitment represents support for the UN High Level Climate Champions’ 2030 Breakthrough Outcome for aviation, one of over 30 sectoral near-term targets deemed critical to halving emissions by 2030 and delivering the promise of the Paris Agreement, said WEF.
Development of a new generation of hybrid-electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft could help reach the next efficiency level, but deployment at scale would take time and initially focus on the short to medium range, while SAF is the most promising option to significantly reduce the aviation industry’s carbon emissions in the near term, and for long-haul flying, even beyond 2050, said the coalition’s members in a statement.
SAF is critical, Jonathon Counsell, Group Head of Sustainability at International Airlines Group (IAG), told a press conference to announce the commitment alongside Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye and Shell’s President of Global Aviation, Anna Mascolo, held during WEF’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit. The three organisations are steering committee members of the Clean Skies for Tomorrow (CST) initiative.
They acknowledged the 10% target was challenging, but said scale-up could be achieved with the right policies. “Yes, it’s ambitious – we are talking 30 million tonnes by 2030 – but with the right policies in place we can deliver that,” indicated Counsell. “This will get us on the trajectory to deliver a truly sustainable industry by 2050.”
Said Mascolo: “We have real momentum now to make a difference. Shell is committed to supplying 10% SAF by 2030 on all its sales of jet fuel and is making investments into SAF facilities. It has committed to supplying 2 million tonnes of SAF per year by 2025.”
According to Holland-Kaye, the 10% target “is only a milestone and will probably improve”. He added: “The critical thing is that we make progress really quickly. If we don’t break the back of this in the next decade, we will have no chance of reaching net zero by 2050. This is the decade for transforming the energy supply chain.”
They highlighted the role of policy in order to reach the target. “Policy is absolutely the enabler to get these plants built and must address three aspects,” said Counsell. “It must create a demand signal, create price stability by using a mechanism such as contracts-for-difference and reduce the capital risk through, for example, loan guarantees. We welcome the progress that we have seen in the last few months in the US, EU and UK but we will need additional policy to attract the investment to get these plants built. The proposed US blenders tax credit is probably in the lead for effectiveness in encouraging investment.”
Holland-Kaye believes the right policies can unlock billions of dollars in financing. “Banks have told me SAF is one of the most investible sectors they have seen. It’s very simple – all you need is the mandate and the price stability mechanism and that will unlock the financing to make this transformation happen.” He also called for a greater commitment at ICAO’s Assembly in 2022 to target net-zero emissions by 2050.
“Achieving our ambition will require commitment, innovation and cross-industry collaboration from a wide range of stakeholders,” said Uppink Calderwood. “We are calling on governments, international organisations and others to work with us to take important steps forward through new policies, targeted investments and regulations that create a level playing field while incentivising transformation. Together we can take a giant leap towards the decarbonised, sustainable and affordable aviation industry needed for our global future.”
One of the signatories to the 10% by 2030 pledge, and a member of the CST steering committee, is Indian carrier SpiceJet. “Our announcement emphasises our commitment to the planet and prosperity,” said CEO Ajay Singh. “Upscaling SAF with a global approach will boost India’s economy. Accelerating the SAF industry with a global approach will bring opportunities for economic growth and transformation in India.”
Photo (Boeing): Indian airline SpiceJet is one of the signatories to the 10% by 2030 SAF commitment