The governments of Singapore and New Zealand will consider introducing ‘green lanes’ for travellers between the countries to help encourage consumer use of flights powered by sustainable aviation fuels. The idea is contained in a groundbreaking Sustainable Aviation Arrangement between the countries, which was signed during a visit to Singapore by New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. The agreement is the first bilateral cooperation on sustainable aviation for both countries, which, together with their aviation industries, have each been exploring decarbonisation measures including sustainable aviation fuel, hydrogen propulsion for aircraft and enabling infrastructure. In addition to studying green lanes, the partnership will include collaboration on policies and regulations to support the uptake of SAF, the electrification of aircraft fleets, supporting airport infrastructure, coordination of research and development, and testing and trialling of both SAF and hydrogen, to help guide the creation of a “sustainable aviation ecosystem”. The governments will also share information on ways of decarbonising airport infrastructure and optimising aircraft types and air traffic routes, reports Tony Harrington.
The Sustainable Aviation Arrangement (links here, here and here) forms part of a new ‘green pillar’ in the Singapore-New Zealand relationship, as they transition to low carbon economies. Other elements include cooperation on sustainable shipping and low-or-zero emission vehicles. Prime Minister Ardern said the new aviation pact, signed with Singapore’s Minister of Transport, S Iswaran, “clearly indicates our commitment towards jointly tackling climate change.” In addition to collaboration on technology and strategy, the agreement also includes the creation of new jobs in sustainable aviation and information sharing on the redesign of work processes and professional development.
“We cannot afford to return to business as usual, because that is unsustainable,” said Ardern. “We need to work with trusted partners like Singapore to ensure that environmental sustainability is a core part of our economic strategy. The commitments made are a concrete demonstration of the government and private sector joining together to build a more sustainable future.” She added that following the signing, Air New Zealand, Auckland Airport, Christchurch Airport and the Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand all committed to supporting the deal.
A parallel statement by the Singapore government said: “The Prime Ministers agreed to strengthen the Enhanced Partnership by adding a new pillar on ‘Climate Change and Green Economy’ to better reflect our recognition of the existential threat posed by climate change, and our shared commitment to implement the Paris Agreement, and seize growth opportunities in the green economy. Cooperation under this pillar can include energy transition technology, carbon markets, sustainable transport and waste management as a start.”
At a roundtable on sustainable aviation, Singapore’s Iswaran said the two nations were “natural partners” which had long shared a common perspective on aviation issues, and that their respective national carriers, Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand, both Star Alliance members, enjoyed a strong relationship.
“We are now extending this partnership and collaborative spirit to address the pressing issue of climate change,” he said. “As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is incumbent upon us to redouble efforts for sustainable aviation. Pre-Covid, international aviation accounted for 2% of global carbon emissions. If we fail to act, the sector’s emissions will rise in tandem with the post-pandemic recovery, and more than double by 2050 from 2019 levels. This is clearly not tenable – neither for the sector, nor for its wide range of climate-conscious stakeholders. It’s not viable for small, open economies like Singapore and New Zealand, which both rely on our connectivity with the rest of the world, for our economy and for our people.
“We know that the journey ahead is fraught, not least because of the sector’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels. Low-carbon alternatives such as sustainable aviation fuels are expensive and global volumes are low due to limited pathways and feedstock. To tackle these challenges, we must harness the collective resolve, resources and capabilities of all stakeholders, across the industry and importantly across nations. Hence, this Memorandum of Arrangement on Sustainable Aviation between New Zealand and Singapore is apposite and timely. It will give impetus to information sharing, research and collaborations with industry, in areas such as SAFs and hydrogen-based fuels. This collaboration is more than just a launch point for bilateral cooperation between Singapore and New Zealand on sustainable aviation. I do believe it can also serve as a catalyst for many more like-minded States to come together to reimagine international aviation, take decisive climate action, and turn our constraints into opportunities.”
The Singapore-New Zealand Sustainable Aviation Agreement follows significant steps in both markets to progress the introduction of SAF and hydrogen aviation fuels. In New Zealand, the government has flagged the introduction of SAF blending requirements for airlines, while Air New Zealand actively explores SAF, electric and hydrogen propulsion, and plans for zero-emission short-haul flights. Regional airline Sounds Air is preparing to introduce electric aircraft, including the still-in-development ES-19 from Sweden’s Heart Aerospace, while key airports are looking at the provision of SAF and clean energy to support electric and hydrogen powered aircraft. As well, Air New Zealand and Airbus have joined forces to explore the potential and technical requirements of hydrogen-powered aircraft on regional routes within New Zealand, and the airline has flagged the conversion of existing Q300 and ATR-72 aircraft to the new fuel beyond 2030.
In Singapore the transition to sustainable aviation is also gathering pace, with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), Singapore Airlines, Exxon Mobil, waste-to-fuel producer Neste and the state investment company Temasek undertaking a pilot programme to assess the supply, distribution and use of sustainable aviation fuels at Singapore’s Changi International Airport. Exxon Mobil will blend SAF produced by Neste from waste cooking oils and animal fats for the 12-month trial, which is due to begin in July this year when the first batch of blended fuel is delivered to the airport. Singapore Airlines and its low-cost sibling Scoot will then start using the blended fuel on flights from the hub.
In addition to SAF, Singapore is also looking at hydrogen propulsion for aircraft. CAAS, together with Changi Airport Group, Airbus and the energy engineering company Linde, have announced a joint two-year study into developing an aviation hydrogen hub in Singapore, exploring transportation and storage of hydrogen, and its delivery to aircraft at existing and future airports.
Photo: Changi Airport Group