25 January 2022

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Domestic flights must be “completely green” by 2030, says Danish Prime Minister

In her New Year address, Denmark’s Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, said the government will set an ambitious goal this year that by 2025 Danes must be able to “fly green” on a domestic route and by 2030 at the latest “fly completely green” domestically. The 2030 target has been interpreted that all flights within Denmark must be fossil fuel-free by the end of this decade. She also revealed “a new and ambitious” carbon tax would be put forward during 2022 to ensure climate polluting companies pay for their emissions. Domestic flights in 2019 totalled around 30,000 although the number has halved during the Covid pandemic. National carrier SAS welcomed the announcement as “very positive” and said it looked forward to a dialogue with the government on how the 2030 goal could be achieved, although the airline stressed it would require investment in the large-scale production of electrofuels.

“We must solve the biggest and most important challenge of our time: the climate crisis. Rising temperatures are destroying our planet,” said Frederiksen in her national New Year’s Day address. “2021 was a year in which we, with broad agreement, took decisive steps on the road to a green future. This year we will decide on a new and ambitious tax on CO2. It must ensure that companies that pollute the climate pay for their emissions. Many are already in the process of adjusting, for others it will take longer. The Danish principle that the widest shoulders should carry the most must also apply in the green transition – if you emit CO2 then you have to pay.

“When other countries in the world are too slow then Denmark must take the lead and raise the bar even more. This also applies to air traffic. To travel is to live and that is why we fly, but at the same time it is harmful to our climate. We need to make it green to fly.”

She conceded the goals the government intended to set would be difficult to achieve. “Are they possible? Yes, I think so,” she said. “We are already on our way. Skilled researchers and companies are working on the solutions. If we succeed then it will be a green breakthrough, not just for Denmark but for the whole world. If there is anything the past few years have taught us, it is that in dealing with major crises, we must never hesitate.”

A spokesperson for SAS confirmed that the government’s pledge that all domestic flights must be “completely green” meant fossil fuel-free and with zero CO2 emissions. The government has already set up 14 industry Climate Partnerships, with one group formed for aviation. Chaired by SAS COO Simon Pauck Hansen, the aviation group comprises airlines, airports, academia and unions. Its recommendations presented to the government last year included support for a longer-term global CO2e tax to fund the cost of the energy transition, with an interim national climate fund financed by a small contribution of around €4 from each departing passenger. The group also recommended the formation of a master plan for a Power-to-X infrastructure to produce electrofuels for aviation, along with facilities for carbon capture, utilisation and storage.

“The group set a goal of a 70% reduction in carbon emissions on domestic flights by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, which it found to be realistic given the prerequisites at the time, and we look forward to discussing with the government on how to reach the new target of 100%,” the SAS spokesperson told GreenAir. “We expect, of course, that the prerequisites will have to change.”

She said the climate partnership group itself had high ambitions for Danish aviation to be sustainable. “The fact that the Danish government has now announced they also have the same ambitions, we see as very positive,” she said. “This way we all work towards the same goal: to make flying more sustainable. Key elements for success are the future availability of electrofuels and their price, which requires investments in facilities for large-scale production.

“The government’s 2030 goal is exciting and we look forward to a dialogue on how we will jointly achieve it for Danish domestic aviation.”

She added that SAS was looking at a number of technologies under development. “It remains to be seen how and what we can use in the future,” she said.

In November, SAS announced it would take part in a joint study with Vattenfall, Shell and LanzaTech to investigate the large-scale production of synthetic SAF in Sweden using LanzaJet’s alcohol-to-jet technology. The goal is for a new production facility situated on Sweden’s east coast to produce up to 50,000 tonnes of synthetic SAF annually sometime between 2026 and 2027 from fossil-free electricity and recycled CO2 from district heating.

“Our joint commitment in finding ways to enable large-scale production of a more sustainable aviation fuel is a fantastic opportunity to accelerate the commercialisation of SAF, and thus SAS’s transition towards industry-leading, zero-emission flights,” commented Anko van der Werff, CEO of SAS.

The Danish government has been keen to support the use of new power sources for aviation, including green hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels. It has been critical though of the European Commission’s SAF blending mandate proposals.

“I’m concerned that the proposals are too weak and the bar needs to be set much higher,” said Denmark’s Minister of Transport, Benny Engelbrecht, at a State of Green roundtable event held at the Danish pavilion during COP26. He added passengers would have to expect to pay extra for the introduction of new green fuels but he considered the higher cost would be minimal.

Photo: Copenhagen Airports A/S

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