Weather prediction and navigational technology developer SATAVIA is partnering with AirCarbon Exchange (ACX) to support trading of carbon credits generated by SATAVIA’s contrail prevention technology. The company’s atmospheric modelling enables aircraft operators to optimise flight plans for avoiding contrails, which contribute substantially to aviation’s non-CO2 climate impact. The subsequent climate benefit, say the partners, can be converted into tradable carbon credits in a new market they estimate could be worth up to $9 billion at current nominal voluntary carbon pricing, which is forecast to rise tenfold by 2030. A first ACX trade to monetise contrail prevention activity coincided with a number of sustainability initiatives carried out by SATAVIA’s commercial partner Etihad during the week leading up to Earth Day last month that included optimising multiple flight plans for contrail prevention. Etihad undertook research and testing on over 30 flights covering operational efficiencies, as well as testing technology and procedures to reduce carbon emissions. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier also released its sustainability report for 2020-2021 that outlines the impact the airline has had on the environment and details of its Greenliner and Sustainable50 programmes.
Commenting on the new partnership with ACX, SATAVIA CEO Adam Durrant said: “Credits are already available to offset aviation’s direct CO2 emissions but direct emissions only account for about a third of the sector’s climate impact. Generating tradable credits for indirect impacts arising from aircraft contrails is a big step forward in attempts to decarbonise aviation as a sector, creating commercial incentives for operators to enable smarter, greener flying.”
The company describes its DECISIONX:NETZERO platform as a software solution “with immediate applicability and near-term returns”. It adds: “By engaging in contrail prevention activity, eco-conscious operators like Etihad will now be able to generate commercial returns from climate-friendly operations, helping to support commercially sustainable green aviation.”
Launched in 2019, ACX is a global exchange for the voluntary carbon market, with a client base comprising corporate entities, financial traders, carbon project developers and other industry stakeholders.
“Our ground-breaking blockchain architecture is a great fit with SATAVIA’s disruptive tech-led innovation and I look forward to supporting greener aviation with further trades in the months and years to come,” said ACX Managing Director and Co-founder, William Pazos.
The $9 billion carbon market valuation is based, say the partners, on scientific research suggesting aircraft contrails generated up to 1.8 billion tonnes of CO2e in pre-Covid 2019.
“Low-hanging fruit of this magnitude doesn’t come along very often,” commented Pazos.
Etihad’s week-long programme included around 20 commercial flights operating across its network to test SATAVIA’s contrail avoidance technologies as part of the year-long partnership. It also operated dedicated ‘EcoFlights’ involving A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft, including the Etihad Greenliner and the airline’s newest Sustainable50 aircraft, to test a range of flight and engine optimisation initiatives, with trials proving successful to be incorporated into regular scheduled operations.
“The results we develop will add to the body of work and knowledge base we’ve built to support the aviation industry on its journey to decarbonisation,” said Etihad Group CEO Tony Douglas.
According to Etihad’s 2020-2021 Sustainability Report, the group’s carbon emissions fell from around 9.8 million tonnes in 2018 to 4.3 million tonnes in 2020 and 2021, a 56% reduction, largely as a result of the Covid pandemic. Etihad has a target to achieve a 20% reduction in emissions intensity in its passenger fleet by 2025, cut 2019 net emissions by 50% by 2035 and reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Other activities during the reporting period include Etihad becoming the first airline to secure commercial finance based on verified compliance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the raising of $1.2 billion in the first sustainability-linked loan tied to ESG targets in global aviation.
“Our sustainability report highlights our insistence on harnessing the opportunities that are available today and commits to continuing to find solutions for the future,” commented Douglas. “Many partners joined us on this journey over the last two years and this report demonstrates the potential we have collectively, with an ambition to set the direction for 2022 and beyond.
“We need to be bold in facing this issue. We need to be decisive. There is no other way forward. That is why we have been insistent that we continue to focus on the question as a long-term strategic priority for our business, spearheaded by the Etihad Greenliner and Sustainable50 programmes.”
Photo: Etihad Boeing 787